10/27/09

The Best Art Movie Ever.



Basquiat the movie is one of the best biopics ever made. It is without a doubt the best major film about an artist. Since director, writer and artist, Julian Schnabel was a close friend to the late painter I think we got one of the most sentimental and whimsical looks into Jean-Michel Basquiat's life. Schnabel cast an amazing group of actors for this film. Dennis Hopper (a rather good visual artist himself), got the accent and likeness of Bruno Bischofberger, David Bowie playing his friend Andy Warhol is the best portrayal of the original "King of Pop," and Jeffery Wright's inspired performance of JMB is nothing short of absolutely brilliant (he should have been nominated for the academy award).

Basquiat exhibited the talent and expression that should have placed him with some of the greatest painters in the 20th century. When you look at Basquiat's work it is hard to believe that the artist was so young. Although his career was cut short at 28 after painting consistently for eight years, his vast body of work proves his devotion to painting. While some people naively write off the artist as being a primitive junkie who was easily manipulated by the art market, Basquiat was a prodigy. He was the voice of his generation in the eighties, where being young and black was previously ignored throughout the art scene.

Throughout the movie, we see JMB's frustration and contempt for mainstream white America. He is carefully watched by clerks, like the one in the caviar shop who checks the bill Basquiat hands him. He is treated with contempt by the white businessmen in the fancy restaurant where he confidentially picks up their tab. In the wonderful interview scene with Christopher Walken playing the newsman, we see that racist degradation that many media outlets were subjecting Basquiat to. However Basquiat plays it cool, or rather is himself throughout the entire process.



Even if he was manipulated by some of his dealers, patrons, and contemporary artists, Basquiat never let his fame dictate his painting. His work remained an expression of his identity and history, his work is personal and that is why it can never become a "period piece." (critic Robert Hughes grossly overlooks the significance of JMB in his book "American Visions") There is always the need for a "bad boy" in the art world. When modernism first bagan there was Gauguin, Whistler, and Van Gogh. Today there are Damien Hirst, Andress Serano and R. Crumb. JMB was not just a "bad boy" he was an exile of the art world, he never wanted to assign any labels to himself or his work. Today he is one of the most imitated painters among art school painters, while Basquiat never went to art school.

10/19/09

Nancy Spero, 1926 - October 18, 2009

The art world endured a great loss today as Nancy Spero passed away in New York City. Spero was a Figurative artist who often collaborated with the Figurative Expressionist Leon Golub. The two had met in Chicago and were married for nearly fifty years and their love of art combined with the importance of self awareness made their work stand apart from the popular Abstract Expressionist mode of the fifties. But Spero was a complete individual, her work showed profound interest in narrative figuration that expressed the important role of an artist as a harbinger of the human condition. She is also an important female artist and one of the great individual voices for representing the concerns, achievements and documentation of women throughout history. Powerful constructs like Torture of Women (1985-89), Fertility (1986), War (1986), Protagonists (1989), and Female Symbols I (1981), raise the awareness for the unequal treatment of women and express in an epic way, women's contributions and importance that makes them seperate (to men) but equal as all humans should be.

See Spero on PBS Art:21 segment

Images below (Torutre of Women, Female Symbols I, Fertility, War, and Protagonists:










10/5/09

We Are Mountain Men

The setting is Green Ridge State Forrest in Western Maryland. We are three men in our mid-twenties living in three different metropolises, with great expectations. We all brought our own expertise to the table, we are intellectual, humanistic and overly progressive. Each of us strives to be the best and had been working tirelessly at achieving long lasting success. However this weekend, it was time to leave the stress from the daily grind and venture into the wilderness where we would find respite. We thought that perhaps we'd learn a thing or two about ourselves, and in the end we did. I learned that a ten mile hike through rough terrain was completely within my grasps. As we meandered through the lush Forrest it became necessary to think only about the task at hand. Survival. If one of us made a wrong turn or lost focus it would be detrimental. We ended up camping far off the blatant trail and made a a fire pit and a raging fire with twigs and dry leaves as well as small branches from fallen trees. The majority of which took place in the dark since we decided not to bring any real luxuries, just certain essentials like a propane burner, a lighter and some instant prepared meals...And of course a bottle of whiskey.... The feeling that creating something we take for granted every day was exhilarating. The feeling of the burning in my calves and back is a reward for a job well done.

We were mountain men. We are men.