Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Butchie {Frank O'Hara}

A long time ago I read Larry Rivers' autobiography (thank you Kurt). In it, he talks about his friendship with the poet Frank O'Hara. Fast forward five or so years, and I stumbled across Brad Gooch's City Poet, The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara.

O'Hara was primarily concerned and involved with the second-generation of abstract expressionists, and the early pop artists. He worked as a curator for MOMA and wrote poetry. He wrote prolifically, profoundly, and occasionally with an arch bitchiness that was as much a part of the literary scene in the '50s and '60s as it was the east coast gay scene. Called Butch when he enlisted in the Navy because he was kind of tough-looking, his fellow sailors were affectionately calling him Butchie by the end of his tour.

Like the nerd that I am, as I stumble across bits of his writing that I really love, I jott down a few of my favorite snatches and excerpts. And since I'm not in Jacksonville to gossip about what's happening there, nor have I yet made the Cleveland rounds, I thought I'd post them here:

From a letter to Larry Rivers, from O'Hara at the conclusion of their affair (they continued to be great friends until O'Hara's death in 1966--he was run over by a beach bus on Fire Island at 3 a.m., and by the time the physicians figured out he was bleeding internally, there was nothing to be done).

"But the worst thing of all about being rejected is the grotesquerie, it sits on one's back like a hump, a horrid tumor, which cannot be shaken, or cut off, or wished away. It is. And there is no making it not what it is."

Digression Number 1

Stars are out and there is sea
enough beneath the glistening earth
to bear me toward the future
which is not so dark. I see.

Naptha (written after the poet saw Jean DuBbuffet's 1959 MOMA show)

Ah Jean Dubeffet
when you think of him
doing his military service in the Eiffel Tower
as a meteorologist
in 1922
you know how wonderful the 20th Century
can be

That'll be all from me here today...I may post about my Michigan Experience over at ...belief in invisibility...

* first image: Alice Neel painting of O'Hara
**third image: a drawing of O'Hara by Rivers.
***fourth image: one of the results of the collaboration between O'Hara and Norman Bluhm

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Price of Gold

So, although I haven't been posting about it here, I have been watching the Bravo-channel show, Work of Art, and it's worse than a train wreck; somehow they've managed to tap into every insidious stereotype about artists and run with it. And I don't think it'd be so bad except for two things:

1. It's pretty apparent who is going to win.

2. Not only does the winner walk with a hefty sum, but also, a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum; an amazing space for any artist, let alone a contest winner, to show in. But maybe that's my jealousy leaking thru.

That being said, do I want to compete? No, and no least because the time constraints seem pretty arbitrary...barely enough for the paint to dry (not that very many of the competitors are painting), but also, in my case, more exposure means lots more chances for me to make a fool of myself with self-aggrandizing proclamations and tiresome artists' statements (plus, I really could stand to lose a few pounds; chubby doesn't film very well).

That being said, there are a few Jacksonville artists I'd love to see compete. On top of the list: Lee Harvey.

I count Lee among my oldest friends here in Jacksonville, and one of the earliest supporters of my art and later, my writing. I've been seeing him more and more lately because he likes to drink coffee at my neighborhood Starbucks, and every time I see him I come away thinking. Whether we always agree is another thing; he says provocative, sometimes outlandish things, but there's generally enough in our conversation so that upon arrival home, I {at least} google the price of gold.

Lee would be, I believe, the perfect contestant to have on this art show. He's smart enough to know it's all a sham, and to give to producers a run for their $$$. He works fast, and has an established visual lexicon within a larger practice not just of making paintings (though they're his primary focus), but of making things. Plus, Lee's been known to get into the odd fight, and not just ideological. He'd probably never do it--he values his privacy these days--but I think the results would be grand.

And at least if he won the $$$ and the show, we wouldn't hate ourselves in the morning.

* above image (Marie Antoinette Big Blah) used without permission from Lee Harvey Inc.