Saturday, August 29, 2009

Art World Comix for our Particular Situation in the Last Year

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Introducing Lawrence Swan, creator of Art Bum comix, a really absolutely up to date satirical viewing of the New York art world from inside/outside the art world, and other life dilemmas of living in New York rather than somewhere else. If you are interested further please see the interview on Hrag Vartanian's blog with Swan. His comix completely took off on the internet via Facebook last spring within the art community, for its take on the current economy and aesthetics of art, and other dilemmas of being an "art bum" - "another dope who came to New York high on hope" as the animated version explains.
(See Newcleanwars on You Tube, an anagram of Lawrence Swan's name.)

As Facebook is the discussion of our time with everyone either joining in or not, this is of interest in terms of distribution and readership and the speed of gathering an audience with something that taps into a particular community's zeitgeist. You Tube has been a good medium for this artist also, who works with a group of musicians called Audio Artists and did some political videos with their music.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bittersweet Art World Comix from Several Years Ago

This is still at the MoMA Bookstore, a one time only collaboration between MoMA, PS1 and DC Comix made at the time MoMA was in Queens awaiting its controversial new space and architecture.

Three curators who worked so many years so astutely and intelligently to bring the public in its more expanded sense art important to the present moment, whether 20th century historical or absolutely new in the case of MoMa. I fear now all we have in their place are curators with their eye on the momentary present.

I am reminded somehow that the British word for curator was keeper, and that the current term curator has lost its custodial sense and long view somehow, that something might be for keeps, if one is modest enough somewhere to not want to be a curator as star in one own's right.

Saul Ostrow wrote an excellent article in the New Art Examiner titled Curator as artist in the mid nineties, and after he had done a presentation to the Tyler student body, I told him how much I liked the critical argument in the article (not mentioned in his talk) but asked him if auteur might be a better term. That was well past a decade ago; however Richard Sennett discusses this phenomenon in terms of politics in The Fall of Public Man, and all influence and power is more political now as imedia predominates and inherited and legislative power give way to charismatic in so many other arenas. (Max Weber's three forms of power, discussed in Sennett at length.) Charisma can be eloquent or it can be paranoid and find its target audience, in the art world it is unfortunately an academically competitive and increasingly globally capitalist admixture, without deep art history and a long view and large picture and understanding of a multiplicity of points of view, the eloquence of what is exhibited, written about the exhibits, and the public speaking and interviewing drops.

Glamour needs pleasure yet harmony spreads contentment. Perhaps the recession will bring a moral correction not just a market correction.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More Summer Vacation Art World Comic Relief - Jim Torok

I loved Jim Torok's work from the first, both the intimate portraits with detail found in British miniatures of the 17th and 18th century, and the big nose comic character, the crudest portrayal in comics since Lynda Barry, whose first book Boys and Girls I bought at Printed Matter in the early eighties when it was on Lispenard Street. Only Jim was doing it on big paper and panels with a paintbrush.

Many of these would be about being an artist in New York, from a generalized standpoint, and quite good satire or wry humor. Wry humor would be how I owuld see this one I found on the internet posted by a young blogger, if I had not seen it shown at Bill Maynes Gallery when I saw it with its dark twin in black and white about how terrifying it can be to be an artist with everything in this panel its near opposite. Which is far closer to the truth for nearly every artist who came here if not actually than existentially - wish I could find that one and post it as well.

He nailed some of the worst experiences of art openings that I had experienced or witnessed without thinking quite consciously about it in one painting I have not been able to find in either his catalogue from Peirogi (worth seeking out) or online, but I only remember vividly the head swiveling motion lined head facing the Big Nose Every Artist, the effect of not focussing on the one who is talking to try and scan rapidly for people it is of utmost importance to talk to, and then the angling for where there might be an after party to go to.

See also his sendup of well known stunts to make one famous in the art world, or at least a news item for that year or so until the next stunt comes along. It was published in another form in Art in America under the Pen and Ink page before that delightful satire on the art world series came to an end just about a year ago.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Summer Vacation Art School Comic Relief

The only comic strip in the early eighties I ever did related to "art" is based on a painting student I knew in school - I wasn't in the painting department. Since the lettering breaks up, the text is panel by panel:

[I knew a boy in college named Raphael who was an art major, concentrating in painting. Good name for a painter, eh? A couple living in Georgia in the late fifties who named their son Raphael couldn't have been expecting him to grow up to be a truck driver - or an MBA either.

One day Raphael showed me his latest painting, rows of painted paper dolls alternating with cut out ones collaged right on to the canvas. Raphael explained why paper dolls - he said, if you draw a paper doll, its a drawing of a paper doll - if you cut out the drawing it IS a paper doll. A real actual live one there in your hands.
I liked his painting quite a bit, but I loved that idea. And the way he said it and everything else at that moment. I could have hugged him right there.

A few months later I came round to his apartment and the painting was leaned up against the wall, with great slashes running through it - shredded. I asked him when he had done THAT. He said about a month and a half ago. Now the emotion that initially made Raphael slash that painting may have been genuine, but when he didn't throw it away right afterwards, and left it there for all to see all those weeks, that was self-conscious. That was reading about angry young action painters who destroyed canvases they weren't pleased with. He wanted to buy into art history and I was sorry to be a witness to that. Poor Raphael, I wanted to hug him again, but for a completely different reason this time. It would take him years to get untangled from art history and back on his own again.]

This is interesting to reread now as I made this only a year out of college and therefore only a few years after the actual events: the kernel observation is based on a true experience; the name, impulse to hug and denouement an attempt at fictionalizing. No impulse to hug the first time, just a real nice fascination, and no affection there the second time when I saw what he had done to a painting and an idea contained in it I liked so much. I was a bit angry he had done that to a very promising Jasper Johns like path however when he ended up doing handsome paintings that were Diebenkorns with fluorescent paint it seemed clear to me there wasn't much point. I mean they were handsome but my mind stopped every time I looked over them with the thought, "but these are Diebenkorns with fluorescent paint."

This was not published in the Austin Chronicle along with the others as I had moved to France and dropped interest in sending them in by then. It wasn't a favorite with the editors or general public anyway - as I said the others weren't about art or art school. They were all stories told by younger and older men and women based on anecdotes from family, friends, or my own life, matched with photos I clipped from different sources to draw the faces and upper bodies from as the idea was someone across from the reader talking one to one. Any anecdote was good as long as a subtle humor was involved, which I suppose to have been initially mine. (After publication I was pleased that it was so generally shared.)

Artists I have met in the latter act of my life used to ask me what I did before I started painting at 27, and I could say the simple answer is, a lot of living, and a freer form life - and a lot of listening to others. Its all there in memory, and some of it recorded in the comic strips from that time. It is interesting being a world of remembered anecdotes, my own and other people's, in a city, period, and art world culture that doesn't have time for it. I continue to remember the ones I have been told up here by so many, and have long since stopped being surprised when it isn't in memory that I have ever been the one who listened, as many are surprised by what kinds of dialogue I can pull up from conversations years past verbatim.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Vacation Art World Comic Relief part II - Alex Ross

Alex Ross, from Chemical Imbalance Magazine, Spring 1988

Alex is now a very well known painter. I had some of my comix in one issue of Chemical Imbalance in the late eighties also, with his psychedelic green man face on the cover. Chemical Imbalance was a mix of music reviews, the newest wave of grafix and comix following Raw, and literary book and fine art reviews added in, if in an art historical vein or tone of interest to the publisher Mike McGonigal.

Chemical Imbalance was published for something like four or five years I believe in the late eighties and early nineties. What was really remarkable was reading young artists writing about literature and fine art in a combination of New York art school library research and fanzine vernacular - like Bob Nickas' writing only very naive and outsider and mainly about surrealists or historical figures or Anna Mendieta. (I am enjoying reading Nickas' Theft is Vision and remembering the early issues of Index Magazine as I write this as he crather singularly combines inside the contemporary art world knowledge and fanzine fervor quite well - even if not all of his sensibility overlaps with mine in visual arts an amazing amount does in music and his enthusiasm and writing skills are quite a serious pleasure.)

Chemical Imbalance is the only fanzine I know of that took an interest in high and low and was equally enthused about both, and had such a successful run. I wasn't living in New York and was so pleased to have been published in there at all back in the day, even though I had long since started painting and the comic was from 1981 0r 1982 by then.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer Vacation Comic Relief

From Aline Kominski-Crumb.

Long before Daniel Clowes' Art School Confidential...

It gets more hilarious and lurid from here on out, but one would have to seek out her book Need More Love to see the next sequence of panels.