12 February, 2011

11 Feb - Steve Martin + Dave Hickey

LAUNCHPROJECTS - To follow-up my past blogs discussing Steve Martin, his latest novel Object of Beauty (November 17), a recent implosion at New York's 92nd Street Y (December 2), and Dave Hickey (July 11) - the two men came together Thursday night at LACMA to chat. The topic of the discussion was Martin's book, his collection, and the art world in general. I think they also wanted to make New Yorkers look bad for not wanting to sit through Martin's talk at the Y. LACMA's Andrea Grossman opened the night by stating, "We in Los Angeles want to hear Steve Martin talk about art!"

The evening's moderator Doug Harvey relays the opening sequence of events in his transcription of the conversation:

Me: Dave, can I get a quote on how this is going to prove that Los Angeles audiences are more sophisticated than New York audiences? In your own words of course.
Dave Hickey: I am going to wear my opera glasses to look at the audience.
Me: By wearing opera glasses, are you implying that L.A. audiences are more sophisticated than New York audiences?
Hickey: More buxom.
As Harvey notes "This exchange, had with post-Vegas MacArthur genius Dave Hickey before he squared off with funnyman/collector/novelist Steve Martin onstage at LACMA Thursday night, was a pretty good indication of what was to follow...The audience was fairly star-studded for this kind of affair, with a cluster of comic genius at the back of the reserved section that included Carl Reiner, Eric Idle, Martin Mull, and Ricky Jay. I'm pretty sure I saw Beck kicking around beforehand, and I definitely spotted Martin's "Colbert Report" co-conspirator Shepard Fairey. Not so buxom a crew, but there was plenty of that to go around in the rest of the 600-capacity Bing Theater."
Hickey delivered his typical Hickey-isms including:
"That's the way I do art criticism – I try to raise the price of things that I think are underpriced, and lower the price of things that are overpriced."
"Buying paintings with the prospect of financial gain is like shopping for your wife. It's never going to work."
When he stated that "If I were trying to write a book about the art world... I really couldn't quite tell the truth, because as awful and grotesque as the party is, I want to keep coming to the party" he certainly described one of the challenges Martin faced when writing Object of Beauty. Largely taken as a satire, the book was meant to be true to the art world as Martin experiences it. He tried to write the book without naming actual names, which proved to create a distracted guessing game to those who read it (I can attest to that). When he used real names, however, he was criticized for portraying the characters too harshly, "I have Peter Schjeldahl [the art critic] sitting at a dinner and he delivers a bon mot," Martin told the crowd. "And Peter Plagens [another art critic] reviewed the book saying it wasn't worthy of Schjeldahl -- although it is actually something he said."
One of the things I take away from Martin, Hickey, Object of Beauty, and the LACMA "scene" is that the art world is its own caricature so any storytelling - real or fictional - reads as satire. The reality of our world is that comedians become important collector/novelists, actors become artists who act like artists on TV, and collectors dress as custodians to get to pay millions of dollars for objects of art before anyone else. And that is just scratching the surface. Our fancy and lovely world of art is so outrageous that it is hard not to take as parody, which is why movies such as Untitled (September 28) feel so harsh yet ring so true. Ridiculous. Sublime. Contemporary. And buxom to boot in LA - just ask Dave.
Photo of the event by Doug Harvey

07 February, 2011

7 Feb - The Google Art Project

LAUNCHPROJECTS - Roberta Smith wrote a piece in today's New York Times about Google's Art Project. I had peripherally heard of this undertaking but had not yet explored the site. Intrigued by Smith's rave review - "from where I sit Google's Art Project looks like a bandwagon everyone should jump on. It makes visual knowledge more accessible, which benefits us all" - I logged on.

Within a few minutes I visited the Tate Britian, the National Gallery, The Frick Collection, the Museo Reina Sofia, MoMA, the Uffizi Gallery - to name a but a few. I experienced the rooms, the walls, the frames, and the paintings to such minutia that William Hogarth's Satan, Sin, and Death (pictured above, right) became almost unbearably tangible - Milton's Paradise Lost in real time in my living room.

This level of access fosters an incredibly intimate art experience. Anyone can enter any of the participating museums at any time, for any length of time. There is no jet lag, fatigue, crush of crowds, plane ticket to buy, or lunch appointment to keep. It is an opportunity to practice seeing, in Smith's words "you can look from a seated position in the comfort of your own home or office cubicle, for as long as you want, without being jostled or blocked by other art lovers. At the same time the chance to look closely at paintings, especially as made things, really to study the way artists construct an image on a flat surface, is amazing, and great practice for looking at actual works."

Google's Art Project is a unique opportunity to explore major works of art throughout the world in an instant. This virtual experience is a part of a continuum of image reproduction that reaches larger audiences. Traditionally in the form of "art books, as postcards, posters, and art-history-lecture-slides," Google's Art Project is the next step in this access to information. Seen exactly for what it is, Art Project is an exciting innovation and incredibly powerful tool accessible to anyone free of charge. Maybe modern technology won't be the death of painting after all.