Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Song For Drella.

About 7-8 years ago I was dating a woman that worked at Barney's. She gave me a sample of Comme des Garcons' Odeur 53. I had never given fragrances a second thought before that, but when that bottle ran out and I was utterly and completely willing to drop 90 bucks to get a real bottle of the stuff I knew that I was in the best kind of trouble. Twenty bottles of CdG later, I'm still thinking about it. Comme des Garcons rarely approaches fragrance from a traditional angle, allowing the inspiration for different series to come everything from leaves to sherbet to the seriously synthetic (Dry Clean, anyone?). I'd always thought that what they were doing in the land of scent skirted very closely to art. By extension, it made me think of how a fragrance--any fragrance--was a little bit like an installation we could carry around with us. So, it was a kick and an affirmation when I read the Warhol Diaries to find that Warhol had felt similarly about the subject.

A couple weeks ago, I quite happily received an email from Bond No. 9 announcing--hold for it--Silver Factory, a fragrance inspired by Warhol with a bottle inspired by his soup cans. Fuckin' ay! I held my breath until the sample arrived today. This could have been really disappointing. Not to worry though. It's pretty great. What's most amazing is that they've created the exact fragrance I imagined Warhol enjoying. I'm not a big fan of more citrusy fragrances, but they've given this one a soft landing. Yet there's a cold distance that the violet brings to the table. The duality works. This is a song for Drella. Hum along.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Drum Solo.

I love this crap photo, and I had to post it. Simple as that. It's from the website of the self-proclaimed "Gods of Sludge", Negative Reaction. The title of the photo file? HaHa . . . "ThatHurt.gif". You betcha.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Boatman's Call.

There would have been no Nick Cave without the recently departed Porter Wagoner. If you need proof, I refer you to The Trip, a collection of songs curated by Jarvis Cocker. Pulp's former frontman places Wagoner's classic, "The Rubber Room", between songs by The Birthday Party and Psychic TV, and the Grand Ole Opry star out-freaks both of them. I defy you to listen to the first few lines of that song and not hear the vocal and phrasing style that Cave has built an entire career on.

Besides being influential, Porter Wagoner was first and foremost entertaining as all get-out. When I was a kid there was this perfect spot of syndicated Saturday evening TV that ended with Hee-Haw and started with The Porter Wagoner Show. Lots of Nudies. Lots of bad jokes. Plenty of great songs. Sometimes there was Dolly Parton. Good times. He will be missed. Rest in peace.

Here's a clip of Wagoner within the last year on Letterman with Marty Stuart.

Friday, October 26, 2007

This One's For Anya.

More power fun at Secret Robot Project.


The following six art blogs are doing something right.
Anonymous Female Artist aka Militant Art Bitch aka Edna
Art Fag City
Regina Hackett
Modern Art Notes
Two Coats of Paint
Edward Winkleman

Charlie Finch's latest effort to titillate his boss, Artnet editor Walter Robinson, is as clueless and mean as ever, not to mention obvious in its timing. His sputter aimed at the art blogosphere came a day after the November issue of Art In America hit the stands wherein Peter Plagens has a conversation with a group of art bloggers, addressing the "growing presence of art writing online." It's an excellent and lively dialogue with one gaff by Plagens. He mistakenly allows Robinson to help him frame the conversation. It's a mistake because Artnet is very much not a blog. The line that Plagens draws to include Robinson in his intro is a weak one.

Anti-money quote:
"Sometimes it's hard to tell where hard-core art publishing leaves off and blogging begins. Walter Robinson, editor of the most conspicuous online art magazine, the price-tracking and marketing services site, says, 'I sometimes joke that we're a blog disguised as an international art magazine.'"

Robinson gets his funny inverted. Artnet is actually just another international art magazine disguised as a blog. I could spend some time taking Finch's look-at-me drivel to task, but I can't get riled up enough about it to get me past the 5 minutes I've already wasted writing this. Yesterday makes me yawn, especially when it's heaving and toothless.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Brain In A Vat.*

Photo by Robert Caplin

Well. I have to say, it's worse than I could have imagined. I stopped by the Met on Saturday to see Damien Hirst's “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”. This curatorial debacle (And make no mistake. It is a debacle.) doesn't ruin the work. Hirst's masterwork is so powerful that ruining it isn't an option. However, the choice to place the three old shark paintings in the same room with it severely and unnecessarily limits the possibility the piece holds for the viewer.

Gary Tinterow has achieved the curatorial equivalent of No Child Left Behind. Yeah. Students will get the facts right on a test, but don't think for a moment that they'll carry the memory of them in their bones. By devaluing the experiential the Met tries to control the outcome of the encounter. I'm not sure which that shows less faith in: the viewer or the art. I'm down with Roberta Smith's assessment of the work: (Obviously paraphrasing now.) It's important and it's fucking AWESOME. The Met's decision to place such formidable strictures on the sculpture is a disservice to their audience.

Much has been made about the choice to place the sculpture beside the window. Well, to be quite frank: whatever. “The Physical Impossibility . . ." doesn't need this kind of ambient trickery to work. What it needs is space, and that is something it's lacking. Placing the sculpture so close to the walls and windows creates traffic flow issues on a busy day like Saturday. Ever play pool on a great, perfectly balanced table in a crappy little rec room? It's a bit like that. Everybody's cue keeps hitting the wall. Also, the balance of the room is distracting: The weight of Hirst's sculpture on one side, with the weight of art history and the implied necessity of knowing it on the other. This is not contrast. This is not context. This is elderhostel kitsch. The Met should have cleared the room, placed the shark in the middle, and let the good and wicked glorious times roll. Instead, they decided to rap our knuckles with a ruler. Tsk tsk.

And what of the child left behind? It was a 10 year old boy, actually. He had come to see the shark with his parents, and the little dude came prepared. He got out his sketchbook, but when he started to draw the guard came over and asked him to stop. Not because sketching isn't allowed in the museum, but because there wasn't going to be enough room for people to walk around the sculpture if the budding artist parked himself there. It was a safety issue. (Feel free to chew on that accidental metaphor for a moment.) Had the work been installed in the middle of the room Johnny would have had plenty of room to spread his wings and get his graphite on, and a dead shark would have had the freedom to stay with him for a long, long time. Impossible.

Oh, and: *

ADDENDUM 11.19.07: I just came across that Dylan line from Visions of Johanna--"Inside the museums infinity goes up on trial." Hell, yeah.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hell. Yeah.

Image by the ever-inventive Dominick Fernow

Congrats to black metal and noise shrine/shop Hospital Productions for getting a nod on the Voice's 2007 Best Of list. Since they opened their trap door in March 2006 they've been making appearances for one reason or another here on Heart As Arena. And with good reason. They kick my ass. Hellsies! What are you waiting for? Descend.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


There's a nice group show at Like The Spice in Williamsburg curated by Eric LoPresti, but it wasn't what blew my doors off. That was waiting for me downstairs where I found the work of photographer/manipulator Anna Druzcz. I was listening to the pastoral weirdness of Il Balletto Di Bronzo's Ys on my iPod before I got to the gallery so I was very much in the frame of mind for the dark and cracked beauty of Druzcz's landscapes. I couldn't get enough of these luscious turbulent things. More please.

Friday, October 19, 2007


This weekend is your last chance to see the open heart surgery that is Jack Whitten's art at Alexander Gray Associates. As I mentioned when the show opened, this painting, Rho I, crash landed in my solar plexus and the damage just spread out from there. OK. That's a down and to the right of the heart, but you know what I mean. The way this painting moves is unstoppable.

Rho I

I wasn't familiar with Whitten's work before I saw his work in High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-1975 last spring. I was duly blown away, and then in the next moment I was thinking of Gerhard Richter's abstracts. My bad. Remembering the time period the exhibit was dishing out set my head (and my timeline) straight. A month or so later I was seeing a show at Alexander Gray Associates when Gray invited me into the back to see something he had just put up. Hmmmm. The painting not only looked familiar, but it also was taking up considerable space in my heart right then and there. Synapses were beginnning to connect. (It also helped that that the book for High Times, Hard Times was on the desk.) Yeah. I knew this feeling.

Topographical Space #7

I was more than a little excited when Gray told me that the gallery would be having a show of Whitten's work in the fall. This show of both new and older works went far beyond my expectations, beginning with the aforementioned painting. I also got my swoon on when I saw the works on paper that Whitten had produced when he had an artist's residency at Xerox in the early '70's. The accomplishment here isn't that he simply made something interesting or so ahead of its time using new technology, it was that he made something so damn beautiful. He captured both the speed of light and shadow. It made me think of another artist whose work with the copy machine I greatly admire, Wade Guyton. Guyton was 2 years old when Whitten was hurling beauty against the walls at Xerox. Again with the "Hello Future. See you in 20 or 30 years." thing. But again: beside the point.

E-Stamp III

I have to admit that the new tile paintings in the second room didn't hit me that hard the first time I saw them. Maybe it was too much goodness for one visit. Maybe I just found the choice of medium disorienting. I mean . . . tiles? I wasn't ready. When I saw the show a second time though these paintings invited themselves in and didn't leave. That was fine by me. The arresting colors opened the doors, and then the intricate composition took over and brought it home.

E-Stamp IV

So, to bring Richter back into the conversation . . . the German painter's best work and the leaps that he takes to get to it are, in the end, about the failure of painting, Not only do Whitten's shifts celebrate the possibilities of the medium, he seems to consistently discover new ones along the way. This is a great show by a great painter. Easily one of the highlights of my art year.


I didn't get a chance to post anything about Whitten's (now closed) show at P.S. 1. His painting 9.11.01 is hands down, the best piece of art I've seen that addresses what it was like to be in New York City on that day and every single day afterwards. It is a masterpiece. I almost never use that word here. This painting gave me no choice.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Photo by Robert Caplin

Still afraid of a future that happened 16 years ago? Go to the Met. They'll soften the blow for you with some old stuff. I haven't seen an insecurity about a work of art externalized like this since John Cheim went after Simon Doonan. I mean, I loooooooove the Met, but do they really need to start competing with Crystal Fucking Bridges before it even opens?

I get it. Contextualize the artwork for "emphasis" and enlighten the viewer. Whatevs. Wouldn't it have been nice if they had just placed it in a room and let it stand on the merits of the viewers' responses? Seriously. Think of the power in that. Dial direct, dude.

From Roberta Smith's article in the Times . . .
"Gary Tinterow, the Met’s curator of 19th-century, Modern and contemporary art, who brought the shark here, emphasizes its art status by hanging three shark-themed paintings from the museum’s collection in the gallery. Two are American: a late-18th-century anonymous copy of John Singleton Copley’s famous rescue drama “Watson and the Shark,” and Winslow Homer’s “Gulf Stream” (1899), which shows a black sailor adrift on a hurricane-battered fishing boat encircled by sharks."

"The third and most appropriate is “Head I” (1947-8), by the British painter Francis Bacon, a recent bequest to the Met. Bacon’s interest in twisted flesh and howling mouths is often cited as an influence on Mr. Hirst, and “Head I” fills the bill. Its central gray mound is featureless except for an upturned, gaping, sharp-toothed mouth that is more than a little sharklike and also echoes Picasso’s monstrous “Olga” paintings of the late 1920s."

Now playing: Obituary's Frozen in Time

Friday, October 12, 2007

Carsten Nicolai at Pace. Me at The Zine.

My review of Carsten Nicolai's miracle of a show at Pace just went up at The Zine on ArtCal. This is my first piece, and I'm looking forward to many more. The Zine provides a place for a number of writers and artists we need to hear from right now. Big ups to the good people at Artcal for turning up the volume on these voices. More please. This amp goes to 11.

What Remains.

Creative Time has donated their archives to the Fales Library at NYU. To celebrate the event What Remains, highlights from the archives, is on display at the Bobst Library on the NYU campus. I have to say that it's a blast to see some of the places they've been. I couldn't be happier to be associated with them. They kick ass! But you've heard me say that before.

Actually, this might be a good time to mention something that's come up a number of times in the last 6 months or so. Every once in awhile people ask me what my relationship is with Creative Time because of the BLOG that I do for them. So, here is the dealio. Basically, I'm just one of their biggest fans. Back when I started blogging a couple people at CT liked what I was doing, and asked me if I'd be interested in doing a blog for them. I think my immediate response went something like this: "Hell, YEAH!" I mean, I was already writing about them anyway. Why not be direct about it and put it on their site. At any rate, I don't work for them. They don't edit me. It's a lovefest. And like so many good things, it all started with a fight.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

5 Years.

And by the way, Dying Fetus provided the official soundtrack over here today to NOT celebrate the 5th anniversary of that vote. Thanks Senate. Thanks President Bush. John Burns was on Charlie Rose the other night and he said--and this is almost verbatim---that Satan himself could not have planned this horror better if he had tried.

And again: People wonder why I listen to Death Metal. I gotta have something to cheer myself up, right? Ugh.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Her sister Kate was the first Gilmore to make me cry, and Jennifer Gilmore has continued the family tradition. Her wonderful book, Golden Country has been making me a little weepy all over town lately, often on the F train. The book has been finding its way in through the quiet corners of its characters' hearts. Seriously, there must be some genetic thing these two have that gives them an all-access pass to my lacrimal glands. Golden Country just came out in paperback, and the author will be reading Wednesday night at the Barnes & Noble at 82nd and Broadway.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Painted Word.

Rosalyn Drexler, Lady in Gloves, 1964

Rosalyn Drexler's Sweet Tooth will be given a reading tonight at The Living Theatre at 21 Clinton on the LES. Am I looking forward to this or what? For real, kids. For. Real.

There's A Hole In My Life.

Altria bolts town, and the NYC arts industry is left scavenging the grounds for smokable butts. And without any trace of irony in their lungs. Now that, my friends, is a clean burn.
Money quote:
“They see a company that they think is doing valuable work and they’ll say, ‘Whatever you are doing next, we’re there for you,’ ” said Annie-B Parson, the theater’s [Big Dance Theater] co-artistic director. “I can’t tell you how valuable that is. I can’t think of a way to replace the hole they are leaving, yet.”

Sunday, October 07, 2007


The Garden in Transit recontextualized by the guys at the garage.

Jonathan LeVine Gallery Photo Policy. Update. Credit Where It's Due.

I really didn't care about the Buchel/MassMoCA mess and then I did for 5 minutes and then I got over it. Let's boil the fat off that one, shall we . . . The institution made a slew of legal missteps from beginning to end, and the artist was, well, let's face it: kind of a dick. OK. Like I said in my Super Addendum to that post: Over it.

But HERE'S something I care about because, well, it effects ME. And that's what it's all about here. The Jonathan LeVine Gallery responded to my post from a few weeks ago regarding their photography policy. I just noticed it yesterday so I'm posting a link back to the original post which includes their response.

As I said then, I can think of a number of reasons to have a No Photo policy. I have to say that I hadn't thought of this one. The gallery IS open to press photography (Which my own experience there bears out.). They're NOT open to people taking photographs of work and then selling said photographs for their own gain. I don't know if the impetus for this act of appropriation was a financial one or if it was something else. No matter, as a gallery, people selling stuff "by" your artist has gotta suck.

I originally stated that all I can ask for is a conversation. Once again, the Jonathan LeVine Gallery has provided just that. I very much appreciate their engagement, and I believe that their policy should be respected. Having said that, I still stand by my original opinion that restricting photography in any way in a gallery is, in the end, a losing battle that limits the possibilities of the art.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Punishment or Luxury?

The thrill isn't gone, but . . . I was a little disappointed in the Ryan McGinness show at the new Pace Prints in Chelsea. Look. I'm a huge fan of both McGinness and Pace Prints. The latter's space on 57th street is one of the most rich and welcoming art experiences you can have in this city. The new space looks great, and they've maintained some of the uptown space's intimacy by their decision NOT to be street level. McGinness' art is as generous as ever, but there's a certain inconsistency in it that pushed me away at times. Sometimes it was colors. Sometimes it was the textures. Let me clear though, this is by no means a bad show. It's quite good in fact, and you should see it. But like I said, but . . .

But . . . THIS is why we're really here! Love, baby. The thrills came in waves when I went to Abe Lincoln, Jr.'s Punishment or Luxury? that opened at My Plastic Heart last night. I wasn't familiar with this artist's work at all before this. (Thank you, Bivs!) I tend to steer clear of the whole toy robot/figure/street art thing only because it seems so overwhelming. (Kind of like The Fall catalogue. Again, thank you, Bivs!) This is what friends are for, kids: guidance.

Look. Any art I've ever encountered that included a reference to Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow has been a winner. Punishment or Luxury? is no exception to this rule. It's like what Pete Townsend said about rock 'n' roll. It might only be 4/4 time, but it's what you do within that structure that counts. Well, what AL, Jr. does within the structure of such a seemingly well-defined genre is what counts. It's the way he pushes at the edges of it with his dirty/clean birdy poo. It's what he chooses to frame within the context of his own forms. This is where I found the unholy trinity of Judas Priest, Venom, and the aforementioned Rainbow bursting out of the heart of one of his characters. (Pictures to come.) That is what brought me in. That is what led me to the rest of the work in this show. That is what threw the McGinness show into such sharp contrast. Don't even think of missing the vicious and tender heart of this show.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Check out this brilliant pairing I found Sunday at d.u.m.b.o. arts center. I mean, seriously. Kathe Burkhart and Marilyn Minter side-by-side. Brilliant. This got me thinking (Yes. It hurt.). Here's my idea for what could be a helluva 3-person show: Kathe Burkhart, Marilyn Minter, and Rosalyn Drexler. All three painters have perspectives and work with themes that overlap, but there would also be enough cognitive dissonance in the room to keep the tension up. Would this form a killer prism or what?