Saturday, November 10, 2007


“Picasso stirred. Picasso screamed. A genius came to life. His first breath must have entered on a rush of smoke, searing the throat, scorching to the lungs, and laced with the sitmulants of nicotine. It is not unfair to say that the harsh spirit of tobacco is seldom absent from his work." --from "Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man."

I still remember the first Mailer book I ever read, "Tough Guys Don't Dance," a brilliant potboiler that alternately titillated, shocked and disgusted. This was before I even realized “who” he was, and where in the Pantheon of writers he stood. And long before I became exhausted with the relentless macho posing of the writers of his generation (I still can’t stomach Henry Miller).

But the prose in “Tough Guys” made me seek out his other writings, and though I have yet to make it through his entire oeuvre, his passing still marks the end of an era. The NY Times says it better than I can:

“Mailer built and nurtured an image over the years as pugnacious, streetwise and high-living. He drank, fought, smoked pot, married six times and stabbed his second wife, almost fatally, during a drunken party.

He had nine children, made a quixotic bid to become mayor of New York, produced five forgettable films, dabbled in journalism, flew gliders, challenged professional boxers, was banned from a Manhattan YWHA for reciting obscene poetry, feuded publicly with writer Gore Vidal and crusaded against women's lib.”

But as Newsweek reviewer Raymond Sokolov said in 1968, “in the end it is the writing that will count.”

So let’s end this rumination with an answered question, instead of posing a new one:

Q. Who stole the Mona Lisa?

A. In 1911, a mad Italian housepainter—Vincenzo Peruggia—stole the painting to return it to his native country. It was found in 1913 in Florence.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

When I was a kid, I was absolutely obsessed with Egypt. I've followed the discovery of various treasures and tombs in Egypt my entire life. And more than one Saturday night has been passed on the sofa in sweats, watching an Egypt or pyramids marathon with bated breath.

So when I read that King Tutankhamen was being unmasked and placed on display, it was simultaneously exciting and disheartening. Recently, King Tut has been the focus of renewed scientific inquiry. His face has been reconstructed (which was itself the cause for controversy as he was represented with lighter skin) and somehow I suspect it really satisfies no-one as each person associated with the pharaoh must’ve had his or her own idea of what he looked like.

Now, Zawi Hawass and the Egyptian Antiquities Board have decided to put the head and feet of the boy king on display in his underground tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The move is designed to help preserve the mummy, which has been damaged by the thousands of visitors that come to gaze on the king each year.

The display, while macabrely interesting, raises questions of the respect for human remains and the appropriateness of ogling one who has made that long journey into the afterworld.

On that same track, if one takes the ancient Egyptians’ own views into consideration, then King Tut is truly living and being worshiped forever. It also probably helps that he’s been dead for 3,200 thousand years and now looks more like a sculpture, less like a man.

Nonetheless, its easy to imagine that it is a humbling experience to gaze upon Egypt’s golden boy; to wonder what his life was like, and what remains to be discovered about the immortal 18th Dynasty.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

“Seriousness” as a form of infectious stupidity

From the recent (amazing) article/interview with Dave Hickey by Sheila Heti over at the Believer (many thanks to Mark Creegan for bringing it to light).

"And you must want to win. I don’t want to be rich, but I want to win. I want my enemies to fall in shambles. I do not want to be fair. I want the art I hate to go away. If you want your art to stay around, and I hate it, get your own fucking critic! So I am not in favor of art—I’m in favor of the art I like."

Hell to the yes.

He also gave us that lovely line (co-opted from Alec Waugh): “Seriousness” as a form of infectious stupidity.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Consider the Source

In the current issue of ArtNews, the magazine takes a look back at their critics’ pronouncements. “Some were prescient, others were clunkers,” the magazine admits with the kind of savage gleefulness usually reserved for the perusal of personal pictures from, say, the 7th grade.

For example, Picasso’s (obvious, yes, but succinct) works were decried as figures made by children with blocks. But in 1958, Rothko’s work got different treatment: “The effect was both of a limitless splendor and of the tenderest and most realistic precision, like the one drop of blood that feel when Snow White’s mother pricked her finger.

And because I can’t resist, a 1994 review of Hirst’s work, “…Only 28, Hirst is maturing into a serious artist who understands that art is not about the show, but rather what goes on behind the stage.”

More than anything, besides a good-natured look into its archives, the ArtNews flashback poses the question of the importance of the (art) critic, and more broadly the importance of being “right.”

So, in looking at Brittni Wood’s recent work at the Jane Gray gallery, one is forced to consider her work not just under her statement that the work examines “social issues of today, with an emphasis on ideas of religion, sexuality, and gender roles,” but also to consider the possibility for evolution.

Wood’s works examine big-ticket issues notably tackled by artists like Kiki Smith, Eva Hesse, Judy Chicago, and Miriam Shapiro. And indeed there are overt references to these artists in her works from gingham-ish fabric to glossy spills, and icons that resemble vaginas.

However, at a certain point, the artist seemingly departs from her mission and begins exploring Clyfford Still-like fields of color. Juxtaposed with gingham strips of fabric glued to the canvas, they are neither a wholesale enough rejection of aesthetic values, or a carefully considered and composed composition.

On the whole, the artist’s smaller works were more successful than the larger pieces. In the petite ones, she managed to control the entire surface, while some of the larger paintings seemed to run away with her.

Right now, it seems Wood is in a transitional phase and it remains to be seen how she will choose to marshal her talent.

More of her work can be viewed at: or

Monday, November 5, 2007

Without Shame

Let she who is without shame cast the first stone.

So, a big thank you for the shout out over on Mile Marshall Lewis’s site: Miles is a writer, critic, and expatriate b-boy living in France and writing about the past and future of hip hop. I’ve read his books and in addition to being funny and smart, I use them as a kind of writer’s roadmap.

Above, you can see a couple of images I’ve been working on lately. Very different from my unsolicited but graciously accepted Bronx Biannual idea (visible on his site), but look closely, similarities exist.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Yellow Handed

Over drinks tonight, a friend (check out his work here: and here: mentioned that Banksy had been caught. Not caught and cuffed, caught on film/digital in the act of wheatpasting.

According to, “Reader Chloe sends us these images of what is surely a new Banksy piece in Bethnal Green. And she seems to have captured the face of the artist, hitherto unseen. (However, we've seen that flower shape before, around Shoreditch—perhaps Banksy is here teaming up with someone else).
The work seems to be some kind of riposte to Tower Hamlets council, which recently declared it would erase all of Banksy's graffiti in the borough.”

In an interesting sidebar, because this isn’t a city-sanctioned sign: “It is a requirement of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 that yellow lines must be correctly terminated with a T-Bar. If the T-Bar is missing or incorrectly marked then it is not legal. This double yellow in Bethnal Green is not correctly terminated.

So, if you have received a ticket at this location will handle your defence and prepare your case for you free of charge,” reports”

But, back to Banksy caught in the act, after looking at the artist’s set-up-- visible in the images--its entirely possible that this was an event structured by the artist himself. The genius here is that Banksy has established such a mystery around himself and his identity, that it could be a case of “we are Banksy, or I am Banksy.” Either way it’s a moot point. Which further lends itself to the artist’s or artists’ success. And ultimately it doesn’t matter.

Though personally, I prefer my Banksy masked. I really don’t want to find out that he’s just another (hugely talented) sneaker nerd or worse, a prick.

It's also interesting to note that the photographed image is very similar to the wheatpasted one. Coincidence?


In response to Tonya Lee’s comment, I was forced to think about my role as a blogger and therefore disseminator of media. Initially my response was that of a journalist: as a successful artist with a personae that plays with the media, he brought this on himself…its all a part of the game, and it makes for an interesting and timely discussion.

But then, in a later conversation Tonya made the point that she likes what Banksy does and thinks it’s important but, it’s still illegal. I thought about that point and agreed…so in the spirit of not contributing to his possible apprehension by the authorities (and because I am the boss-lady of this tiny sub-corner of the interweb), I’ve fuzzed out his face. The interesting thing for me is not, in fact, unmasking him, it’s in considering that he stage-managed this whole thing.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Carry On!

Jacksonville is not necessarily a visionary city. It’s trying, but like an addict, the city stumbles and falls in its attempts to become more cosmopolitan…again and again reaching for the crack-pipe of conservatism.

But as tempting as it is to rail angrily against the powers-that-be, I’ve decided to “above all, keep calm and carry on.” No, it’s not an original idea—it originates in WWII Briton where signs, bearing that admonishment were posted around the city.

Now, the company,, has printed an homage to that delightfully stiff-upper-lip-ish maxim. The print comes in several colors, is a limited edition, created by an independent shop that supports artists.

Thus tying neatly into artisntrocketscience’s latest pronouncement to shop responsibly. Perhaps this is the gift I’ll give myself this winter.

Baby-step subversiveness

Supporting my need to be (a least a little) subversive in a time of overwhelming blandness, I’ve stolen a cue from the kids over at Flufflife and taken the handmade pledge. I also take this pledge to mean supporting unpretentious small local businesses and (equally unpretentious) artists.

Hopefully I’ll get through the majority of the season sticking to my ideology and not buckling to the pressure to shop at Target and its ilk. If, as a community in a capitalist culture we were to use our discretionary income more thoughtfully, think of the changes that could occur! Okay, now I’m sounding dangerously utopian and socialist, so I’ll sign off with a simple thought from Jacques Cousteau, “If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed [and] if we are not willing [to change], we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.”

So no, I’m not saying that shopping is route to saving the world, (though most of the stores in 5 Points will be open late tonight followed by a 9:15 showing of "Goonies" at the old 5 Points Theatre) I’m simply saying conscious consumerism is a great way to put community-centric ethics into action.

Now the horse is dead, ’nuff said.