Monday, January 29, 2007


Hello. How are you? Let's see, where do we start? There are so many levels and facets to all of this. There is no beginning, just a beginning. You need to know that I respect you. That I will honor you, and be straight with you. That is first. I understand that. I expect no less. Have I been worthy thus far? Well, you're going to decide that, and probably you already have. Maybe you're already gone. I can't blame you. I haven't always been at my best, and sometimes that has been for all the world to see. Sometimes my best will never be known. Whatever witness I may have had has not stepped forward. My best has been anonymous, which is perhaps as it should be. Must be. In this I am like you. Can we agree on this? Can we start from there?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Painting Scared

It happened the other day. I'm embarrassed to say it had been a while. I got scared. I was painting and I got scared. My blood started to rush, my heart began to pump, and my brow got wet. I was scared. I had forgotten how it felt.

A couple days later I mentioned it to a painter friend and he said, yeah, when you think you've got a big one on the line. I agreed, but it was more than that. In fact, I don't think that was it at all. Unless you call the big one the unknown. That was what it was. I was someplace that wasn't safe, and maybe it was like the hunt, but not fishing, more like big game, in the dark, something that could actually hurt you. That was how it felt. And I remembered, that was how I felt painting as a young man, and that was the feeling that guided me. I always wanted to feel the adrenaline. I was maybe even addicted to that feeling. It was risk, danger, speed, the unknown. That was what painting had always felt like. I would throw myself into it and stay as close to the edge as possible, and risk falling off every second.

I remember hearing painters say that getting good at what or how you were painting was the kiss of death, and well, frankly, I believed them. It leads to a kind of sleep. Getting comfortable was the equivalent, and we all know what that means; we take things for granted, the blood stops flowing, we stop being scared.

So here is my New Year's resolution. I'm going to start painting scared again. I promise.

Or what? OK, maybe my friend had it right. Maybe it is because you have a big one on the line and your adrenaline starts to pump through the roof. Maybe it is because you don't want to lose it, screw it up, maybe this is the big one: so you hold on, and that's when it gets scary. Because you can't control the big ones, and they are going to drag you straight to hell. The big ones are the Moby Dicks, of course. They get you every time. The ones you land, well, they are the exceptions, unless of course you are out of your mind, and most of our best and brightest were, well, nothing short...

There is that other possibility still/again; that you’re really scared because you’re out on thin ice, over your head, however you want to put it. I like that. Biting off more than you can chew and then having to chew like crazy. Chew like you are out of your mind!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Visions of Grandeur/Globalization; The Multinational Incorporation and Dehumanization of Art

The old MoMA was like a good book. You and Flaubert. You and Cormac McCarthy. You and Jane Austin. You could wander in. Visit a few old friends. You and Matisse. You and de Kooning. You and Picasso. You could go in to see just one painting and leave. You could have lunch in the garden and even read a book. And you always ran into a few of your other friends who also wandered in for the afternoon.

I think what people really hate about the new MoMA is the loss of intimacy and touch that is so much of what art means to us. The personal relationship with the work. It's not MoMA anymore, or even DADA, but the STATE. State of siege. It's not a good book. It's the airport. It might as well have moving sidewalks. It's the IMAX! It's the multinational incorporation of art. The international mallification of art. You're worse than cattle being prodded along; you're a bug on the windshield of the big multinational corporate art jet! Get on board or get out of the way! Whatever!

About fifteen years ago I wrote a big spread for the Christian Science Monitor on a Sol LeWitt show at the Addison at Andover that I had personally worked on to research the feature, and I ended it by asking if among other things LeWitt wasn't the father of careerism. I was getting at something but I didn't quite know what it was. This is what it was. Of course I doubt LeWitt can be held personally responsible, but his whole corporate approach to working inspired a younger generation of MFAs that might as well be MBAs.

I'm not going to go into how we got here. A lot of tributaries have fed this river. Expensive graduate schools that by the nature of economics demand strategies of a large scale. Contemporary art institutes urging on visions of grandeur. I personally experienced this over twenty-five years ago with an ambitious young curator at PS1 wanting me to be his discovery. Naturally I resisted. He was one of the first of this breed. He was really a young entrepreneur. PS1, by the way, may not have been that intimate in scale then, but it was in touch. It had touch. That made it intimate. But of course money and power are the big factors. People always wonder why I prefer galleries to museums and art centers. Scale. Intimacy. They are small money and power. Things can happen there. Institutions are ruthless, of course, and we have to accept that, I have to accept that, me and my bad attitude--busted. But look what happened when Marcia Tucker showed Richard Tuttle at the Whitney in 1965. She was fired by the board of directors. Galleries don't have boards! The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has more money invested in their front steps than the entire Boston gallery scene has combined. They need the Sol LeWitts. The Richard Serras. Artists on their scale. Forget some ratty Van Gogh painting his heart out in a garage somewhere. Not going to happen? Well, who knows? Art finds a way. Happy art-making.