Archives for category: Contemporary Art

I was struck by a quote I ran across from David Hockney a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind because, for the first time in my life, someone was finally able to put words to the powerful and unquenchable thirst that motivates and drives my soul, a drive that, as time goes on, is becoming even more pronounced.David-Hockney-painting-Th-005

“I think I’m greedy, but I’m not greedy for money – I think that can be a burden – I’m greedy for an exciting life. I want it to be exciting all the time, and I get it, actually. On the other hand, I can find excitement, I admit, in raindrops falling on a puddle and a lot of people wouldn’t. I intend to have it exciting until the day I fall over.”

At 76 years old,  Hockney  has a show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco entitled “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” that features 398 master works, most of which was produced in the last decade alone.   “This is a man who is very active, very energetic, but we are in a period where every day counts, and I sense that with this desire to work all the time. However, the idea of old age and old age style is something that when you look at Hockney’s recent work, you’re sort of dumbfounded, because these look like the work of a very young man: energetic, exuberant, vital, optimistic” says Fine Arts Museum director Colin Bailey, in remarks based on art historian Kenneth Clark’s essay on aging and the arts.

It’s true that David Hockney is filled with the kind of relentless quest to stuff as much life and living into his remaining years as possible, and I know this, because I had the opportunity to spend and afternoon with David Hockney many years ago at a Boxing Day celebration at the home of film director John Schlesinger and his long time partner, Michael Childers.

Mr. Hockney had just completed a documentary after years of study to discern how the great masters produced such incredible detail in their portraiture, and he was eager to talk about his discoveries with anyone who would listen.  I knew David Hockney’s name, of course, and I knew he was famous, but I’d worked in Hollywood for many years and met lots and lots of famous people, not many of whom were kind to a “complete unknown” such as myself.

I think the only other major figure who ever treated me with that sort of respect was the great film producer, Ray Stark, who I met at a Prince concert when I first started working at the William Morris Agency.  I was sitting alone at a huge table waiting for the rest of the agent trainees and assistants I’d come with to return from the bar, when this man came sailing up to me to say hello.  Once he realized he didn’t know who I was, he left for his table, just as my friends all arrived.  One trainee asked how I knew Ray Stark and I said, “would you like to meet him?”  Everyone looked at me like I was nuts, because at this point, a line of influential Hollywood A listers had lined up to pay homage to Mr. Stark.  I got up and walked over to him, and said, “Mr. Stark, would you mind coming over to say hello to my friends?”  He left the A listers standing there while he came over to my table to meet my friends, and while they  were impressed that I “knew” Ray Stark, I was even more impressed that he treated me so kindly once I figured out who he really was.

It was the same with David Hockney.  Shortly after we were introduced, he grabbed a mirror and my elbow and guided me to a wall near a huge floral display and proceeded to explain, at length, how the mirror enabled him to create a precise reverse drawing of the display, and how the great masters used mirrors to capture their subjects in such incredible detail. Later, when my uncle told me he had a rare copy of a book by David Hockney, I sent the book to Mr. Hockney to have him sign it for my uncle, and he did.

When I read his quote about money and an exciting life, I couldn’t get it out of my mind, because that’s exactly how I have felt since I was ten years old.  I have wanted more money than I have ever had, because I have  wanted the kinds of huge adventures I thought being wealthy would afford, but I am old enough now to realize two things;  I am on the “other side” of the years I have left to cram as much living as I possibly can into a single day (and I do), and that not having the kind of money I have always wanted to go on a safari (for example) or stay in a five star hotel just because I could, or to make the dreams of people I run across every day of my life who have far less than I do come true, because I have the money to do it (which is as much a part of the adventure as sky diving or weeks spent on the Orient Express) is one of the reasons I have had the adventures I have had in the first place.

I have had to get very creative about how I live my life because I don’t have a lot of money, and paying attention to things like the bright flash of red I saw in my yard yesterday as a male cardinal darted past, or waiting at the corner of 81st and Central Park West in the freezing cold for the Macy’s Parade to start, is all part of the wonderful adventure of my own remarkable life.

I will never stop striving, never stop reaching for the stars, never stop challenging myself to drink in every moment I possibly can, even when I complain that I don’t have enough or the things that I want aren’t happening fast enough to suit me, but I have come to embrace the fact that my incredible impatience to stuff as much as I can into a day is all part of my charm.  I don’t have forever and there is still so much to be done.  The time to live, is now…..

For more information on the David Hockney exhibit, which is in San Francisco through January 20 at the de Young Museum click this link.

Now get out there and play…..

I don’t get contemporary art, and after watching a recent episode of 60 Minutes, I don’t think I ever will.  Morley Safer visited Art Basel in Miami as a follow-up to a segment he’d done on contemporary art twenty years ago, and as he wandered through exhibitions that included blue plastic casts of bathroom fixtures, a set of vintage lawn chairs (where I come from they call that patio furniture, not art)  and the gigantic skeleton of a dead dog lying on its back, I thought, I don’t get this either.  It almost seems like the more outlandish an idea is, the more committed some overpaid, over-educated, intellectually superior art snob is determined to convince you that the pile of crap you are looking at has great significance in the advancement of human culture, and if you don’t agree, then YOU are an idiot.

I will confess to a certain level of genius on the part of artists and gallery owners to slap some fancy words about “what it all means” on a plaque beside a can of cigarette butts and some used condoms that some cleaning lady at a gallery in London LOST HER JOB over after sweeping it all into a dustbin because the “installation” had just sold for some ridiculous amount of money, but seriously?  How can anyone actually buy into this garbage?

I wanted to scream when a gallery owner describing a new piece by a Korean artist to the Guggenheim’s head curator spoke solemnly and with great intensity about the “sadness” of  this artist’s work, and how it captured the tragic paradigm of our own tangled lives. This “tragic paradigm” was an IV stand draped in a tangled extension cord with a couple of plastic leis tossed over it, and looked like it took all of twenty minutes to assemble, including the trip to the Dollar Store for $6 worth of supplies.

This isn’t the first time I’ve blown a gasket over the contemporary art market either.  Not by a long shot.  I had to give up my subscription to  Art News Magazine several years ago because I used to throw it across the room every month.  First, there was an article on a French artist who bought terra-cotta pots from Home Depot and spray painted them gold (they sold for HUGE sums of money),  a guy who spent years tiling very square inch of his home, and then several more tearing all the tile back out again to protest  consumerism (at least, I think that was what his art  was supposed to “represent”).  There was the trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art several years ago for a Vasily Kandinsky exhibit that, inexplicably started with an artist I’d never heard of before.  Her work was benign enough to begin with, but I eventually found myself in a darkened room, lit only by a single light bulb, staring at  row upon row of dead birds and mice in crocheted outfits.  The accompanying wall text explained that this was artist, Annette Messager’s “homage to women’s work”.  Messager found dead birds and mice in her Parisian neighborhood,  took them home where she bathed them, made clothes for them, then put them in a baby carriage and walked them through the streets of Paris with them, and “when they were bad, she would punish them”.

I create art with my hands, my heart and the images in my head and I am really, really good at what I do.  I also can’t get arrested as an artist, and yet some crazy French broad can get an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with dead sparrows in a crocheted scarf, and the Tate Gallery in Liverpool proudly exhibits a can of artist excrement that cost them $30,000 because its one of the few that didn’t blow up after being sealed.   This artist got the idea to take a crap in a can and sell it for the cost of what an equal amount of gold would cost at the time, and while I must admit to a grudging respect for the moxy it took to dream up such a scam, I just can’t get my head around the fact that someone bought a can of poop on purpose and then triumphantly splashed the purchase all over the pages of an art magazine.

I don’t get the art, I don’t get the artists and I don’t get the multibillionaires who spend fortunes on stuff I wouldn’t have in my house on a bet.  Eli Broad bought a “premiere” piece for a small fortune of what looked like someone running down an alley.  I couldn’t tell if it was charcoal, or pencil or acrylic, but I do know it was really REALLY ugly, and if that is what passes for “premiere” art these days, then he can have it.

I went to an exhibition at the Temporary Contemporary in Los Angeles a few years ago because several artists I had only heard about were in a group display.  I’d never seen work by Kiki Smith, Red Grooms and Brice Marden, and while I am still not in the least bit impressed by any of them, it was a woman whose name I chose not to remember who sent me fleeing from the building in a complete fury.  Her “installation” involved a giant block of chocolate with the edges chewed off, a heap of Crisco that had started to melt, and at the other end of the room, a glass case filled with chocolate lipsticks.  A video interview with the “artist” accompanied the work, so I decided to find out what I was missing.   This very lovely, very soft-spoken, VERY well-connected young woman spoke about her passion for sculpture and the great masters like Rodin and Michelangelo.  She said she wanted to “emulate” their style and so she thought, and thought, and thought, and realized that she could approximate the greats BY CHEWING THE EDGES OFF A BLOCK OF CHOCOLATE AND REGURGITATING CRISCO BY THE MOUTHFUL then forming the chocolate and Crisco into a consumer product as an indictment of female vanity.  Are you kidding me?

Not to be outdone, I went home and decided to cut and reassemble several gourds in different shapes and sizes, “paste” them back together with glue and dowel rods and Bondo, then paint them or cover them with glass beads and you know what I got?

Those are phallic.

Maybe I should have draped some tangled extension cords over them, spray painted the whole thing gold and crocheted sweaters for them to wear.