Two fun stories about two odd paintings

Everyone was out on Friday evening so instead of going home to an empty house I walked over to MoMA. There’s a modest Jackson Pollock exhibit.

Jackson Pollock
Full Fathom Five 1947


This is considered to be one of his first ‘drip’ paintings. What a mess! But I like it. I wonder what possessed him to take his canvas off the easel and lay it on the floor? He used traditional oil paint but he also used house paint. He threw a lot of other junk in, too. You have to get close to see the other stuff. So close that you’ll be yelled at by the museum guard. Take it from me. It’s like a treasure hunt. Within the folds of paint you can find:

A skeleton key.


Paint tube caps.




Some nails.


A cigarette and another coin.


Pushpins and thumbtacks.


The title was suggested by Pollock’s neighbor. It’s a quote about a shipwreck from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

“Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his bones are coral made
Those are pearls that were his eyes.”

Isn’t that beautiful? People stopped paying attention to him after the drip paintings. It’s as if Led Zeppelin sang ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and nothing else. Poor Jackson. It drove him mad. He wrapped his car around a tree in a drunken fit. Is it better to have known greatness, only to have it snatched away? Or are you better off never knowing?

Robert Rauschenberg
Canyon 1959


He used a little bit of everything. Oil, paper, metal, photos, fabric, wood, canvas, buttons, a mirror, a pillow, cardboard and, yes, a taxidermied bald eagle. It’s a combination of painting, collage and sculpture all balled into one using found objects. He called these pieces Combines. He’d walk around downtown New York (we’re talking 1959 downtown) and pick up items that inspired him. Clearly, the centerpiece is that bald eagle.


It was given to him by fellow artist Sari Dienes. She found it in a hallway of the Carnegie Hall studio building. The rumor is it was killed and stuffed by one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. I wonder how it got to Carnegie Hall?

Bald eagles are a protected species, so selling this would be a felony. Consequently, when the owner passed away and bequeathed it to her children, the appraisers valued it at $0. The IRS disagreed and said it’s worth $65 million and they wanted $29.2 million in inheritance taxes, thank you very much. To get the IRS off their backs, they agreed to donate it to MoMA and MoMA agreed to always have it on display for the public to enjoy.

Four people sitting on a bench texting.


And where is this bench? In front of this:


Why bother to let one of Monet’s most vibrant tryptics wash over you when social media beckons? I wish I could report that they were absorbed MoMA’s museum app but, sadly, they were not. They were texting.

The bigger question here is: What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I in their lives? They’re not blocking my view of the painting. Why do I give a damn what they’re doing? This is the opposite of Zen detachment. I feel like a bitchy old man complaining about those damn kids and their newfangled technologies.

It is a shame, though. If I could un-invent mobile phones I’d do it in a second.

It was the last weekend for the monumental Picasso sculpture exhibit so it was pretty crowded. I’d like to propose a new rule: If you have a stroller, you can’t come into an art museum. They banned selfie sticks. Why wouldn’t the ban strollers?

Pablo’s clever guitars on a table.


Picasso guitar2


Picasso guitar1

Mixed media

Picasso guitar3

Children of alcoholic parents

Six powerful paragraphs from my UK blog buddy, Graham, about the hard road he, his wife and daughter traveled to his sobriety. A beautiful piece. Everything I know about alcoholism I learned through this guy’s URL.

Guitars and Life

Recently highlighted by BBC news is a campaign by Liam Byrne MP who is trying to get a national strategic plan and more helplines for children of alcoholics to get support from.  My daughter brought this to my attention as she had heard an article about it on the radio yesterday.  The figures quoted are that currently in the UK there are 2.6million children living with a parent who has a problem with alcohol.

In discussing this with my daughter she stated that she frankly didn’t even consider me as being part of her life until she was about 10 – 11.  I got sober when she was 8.  How did I feel about that?  Firstly it didn’t surprise me.  I have very few memories of my daughter as a small child.  I was into my last few years of heavy drinking, I was avoiding responsibility and was frankly simply zonked…

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There is peace and serenity in The Light

Enough ranting about racism disguised as serious theater and Asset Management douche bags. Back to art galleries and woeful tales from my past.

Instead of eating lunch, I took the C train down to the Bortolami Gallery in Chelsea for the Ann Veronica Janssens exhibit. There’s more than one kind of nourishment.

Janssens’ primary medium is light. For sheer trippy spectacle, it’s going to be impossible to top James Turrell’s MoMA show from two years ago but Janssens has a few nice ideas here.

Untitled (gamble)
Fluorescent light connecting two spaces
Dimensions variable


It looks like a light saber. This is a single, eight-foot fluorescent light. A hole was cut in the wall dividing the gallery lobby from the main space and the light passes through which, I reckon, links the two spaces. It’s nice enough but I don’t think it’s too far removed from the fluorescent lights that illuminate the gallery.


See what I mean? You could almost say this is derivative of Duchamp’s readymades. The gallery rep pointed out that Janssens’ light is far brighter than the ceiling lights (which is true) but sometimes a light is just a light.

Untitled (blue glitter)
Blue glitter
Dimensions variable


Untitled (blue glitter) is exactly that. A pile of blue glitter on the floor. It’s sparkly under the gallery lights.


She took about 12 pounds of blue glitter, poured it into a mound on the floor and then just kicked it a few times. How it lays is how it stays. The floor is her canvas. I wish I could’ve watched her install this piece. I’d have given it a kick or two myself. There are indentations in the glitter where people have poked it. You can’t blame them. It’s practically begging to be touched.


Attention all artists: don’t call a piece Untitled and then provide a parenthetical title. That’s the title. I see that a lot and it’s a distraction. Knock it off.

Seven spotlights; artificial haze
Dimensions variable

On the far side of the gallery, a warm, red glow beacons to you.


You enter a small room that has misty air and seven spotlights arranged just so.


It’s a “haze sculpture,” which I liked quite a lot. You slowly walk around the room and the shape changes with the angle you view it from. This view is dead-on.



This view is from the back wall facing the entrance. I like the geometry of this angle.


I wish I still smoked weed. I’d dig out my bong or roll a big fatty and go back for another look.


July 27, 1995

I got a call from home. Iggy died. [Note: Iggy was my pal Barry’s dog.] They kept Iggy tied up in the garage whenever they went out for the evening. The garage door has three windows about half-way up. Last week, while they were out to dinner, Iggy took a running leap and jumped through the center window. The leash wasn’t long enough for him to reach the pavement so he hung himself. They came home late and as the car pulled in, the headlights floated up the driveway, across the house and alighted onto Iggy’s corpse hanging out the garage door window. Jeff [Note: Barry’s younger brother.] started screaming. It was a terrible scene. They don’t know if he died from asphyxiation or if his neck snapped.

Molly is leaving. Her company in Bayonne is closing and she’s taking a job in the Philadelphia office. I feel nothing. She had me over for dinner once. She took a few pork chops, doused them in ketchup and then broiled them. It made me sad. I told Austin and he said, “That’s poor people food,” which is horseshit. We were poor but mom was a spectacular cook. A Master Chef. We made out for a bit after dinner and it wasn’t very inspiring. There’s no subtlety in her kiss. It was like having too big a piece of yellowtail sashimi in my mouth.

The last time I was in Cleveland I met her mom. Oh, holy Christ. She reminded me of the Chicken Lady from The Kids in the Hall.


She stuck her big, homely face a few inches from mine and shrieked, “I heard you’re dating my DAUGHTER! How do you LIKE HER?!” It was awful. Her breath was blowing my hair back. All I could see was Molly 40 years from now. Next.

“My people! My people!”


Newark, NJ. Sunday, January 31, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

Everyone’s a little bit racist. Including me.

Everyone’s a little bit racist –
All right!
Bigotry has never been
Exclusively white

Avenue Q

I’m a quasi-lefty from way back. Growing up economically challenged and spending two decades in the racial bouillabaisse of New York City inoculated me from the ravages of economic, racial or cultural insensitivity.

Or, so I thought.

Here’s a synopsis of “Smart People,” the new drama by Lydia Diamond about to open off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theater. I hope you’re sitting down.

“Four Harvard intellectuals, a medical intern angered at being underestimated by his white colleagues; a white Harvard professor whose neurological studies, he says, show that white people have a “predisposition to hate” people of other races; an African-American actress frustrated at her lack of opportunities…”

Stop right there. I’m a big supporter of the arts, especially theater (+/- 50 plays annually), but I’m not wasting a dime or my time on a play that puts forth the notion that white people are naturally predisposed to racial hatred. Additionally, all the conflicts are caused by white people. It’s a flat, one dimensional, ugly piece of bigotry. A shit premise and I reject it.

The playwright is a black female. Imagine if a white male wrote a play that concluded black men abandon their families because it’s coded in their DNA. I wouldn’t support crap like that, either. (Which is irrelevant because it’d never be produced.) This playwright isn’t some fringe crackpot. She has bona fides. She had a play produced on Broadway (which I saw and enjoyed) and the Second Stage is a major off-Broadway house.

You can argue that she’s trying to stimulate a dialogue on race but I don’t buy it. There’s nothing high-minded going on here. Setting the story in Harvard is just putting lipstick on a pig. She’s going for low-hanging fruit. Clearly, we need to have a discussion about race but I’m confident this isn’t the way to go about it. Wait until Fox News gets hold of this.

This story thread hardened my heart and blinded me to the legitimate grievances of the other characters. I couldn’t care less what their struggles were. I find this idea so odious that I give no weight to anything else she’s written.

Right on the heels of reading this, I heard Spike Lee announce that he’s boycotting the Oscars because he found the nominations too Caucasian for his liking. Jada Pinkett Smith quickly followed suit. Why would anyone care if those two clowns didn’t attend the Oscars? So stay home. I’ll take your seats. Jada named her son Jaden. Her husband Will named their daughter Willow. What a couple of narcissists. Those kids are condemned to spending the rest of their lives in a shadow.

See that? Just typing this out got me all riled up again. I’m a speeding locomotive without any brakes.

This is Jamie Dimon. He’s the CEO of firm that manages $1.7 trillion (not a typo) in assets. He came down off Wealth Mountain to share this piece of sage wisdom with the commoners at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:


Thank you, Capt. Obvious.

How is that breaking news? Breaking News: It May or May Not Rain Tomorrow. Talk about hedging your bets. This man’s salary was just raised 35% to $27 million annually. You’d think he’d have something with a little more gravitas to impart.

Goldman Sachs just paid a $5 billion dollar fine for bundling subprime mortgages that they knew were worthless and selling them to their clients as viable investments. They knew their clients were going to lose their money but they didn’t give a damn. No one was held accountable. If someone perpetuated a fraud on that scale outside of the asset management industry, there’d be some prison time involved.

Lost sleep at Goldman Sachs: 0.0 hours.

The Asset Management industry is peopled by amoral, thieving, windbags. If my daughters go into investment banking, I’ll consider myself a failure as a parent.

Oh, it snowed, alright. 21 inches worth. I never shoveled so much snow in such a short period of time. I was a ball of hurt.


Yoko and Me: Healing the Universe

Currently at the Andrea Rosen Gallery in Chelsea is The Riverbed by Yoko Ono. The exhibit is comprised of three interactive installations; Mend Piece, Stone Piece and Line Piece. You should always beware when you see the words “interactive” and “installation” used in the same sentence.


Mend Piece is choking to death on metaphors.


It’s about healing and making peace with the damage in the world. A table is strewn with broken cups and saucers. Yoko provides glue, string, tape and other bonding materials.


The idea is to repair the broken pieces. As you perform this, you are instructed to be mindful of the mending that’s needed elsewhere in the universe (not to mention your own tumultuous life). It’s actually a very sweet notion. I found her kind, gentle intent admirable, although a bit too New-Agey for my tastes.

The big surprise is how incredibly creative some people are. Finished pieces are displayed on white shelves along all four walls of the gallery. (Click for detail.)


riverbed9 Some very impressive assemblages were created.


A caterpillar in a cocoon hanging from a thread



It reminded me of an Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein piece whereby the artist provides the inspiration and materials but relies on other people to execute it. It’s like all of the fat with none of the calories (for the artist).


After mending a cup, you are invited to enjoy a (free) macchiato. It’s served in cups with cracks in them; imperfect but still whole. Just like you and me.


While sipping my macchiato, I heard a loud *POP* a few feet away from me. Someone had taken their macchiato and THREW it against the wall. The cup shattered and the liquid streamed down the wall. I think it was done in the spirit of it being an interactive installation but it wasn’t appreciated.


When the young gallery hottie came running over (ALL Chelsea galleries employ young hotties) I said I thought it was kind of interesting. She snapped, “You wouldn’t think it was so interesting if you had to clean it up.” I said the wrong thing. That happens a lot.

I’m glad I’m not a stone in Stone Piece.


Seat cushions are placed on the floor around the perimeter of a second gallery with smooth stones stacked in front of them.


It’s a meditative exercise. The idea is to hold a stone and transfer all your negative energy into it. I tried to play along but I couldn’t find a boulder large enough to absorb all my fear, angst and self-loathing. Yoko has written on some of the stones. I picked one up, turned it over and it said “Dream.” So I dreamed about having a gigantic, multi-room flat in The Dakota. Dream big or go home.

In Line Piece, we are instructed to “Take me to the farthest place in our planet by extending the line.” Yoko provides string, hammers and nails. People pound nails into the wall and connect string across the room.


The gallery is crisscrossed in a web of string. Traversing the gallery is a bit of a challenge. You have to walk low to the ground.


Pencils are provided and you can draw on the wall but I didn’t see anything as fetching as what was done with the broken china.


The installation evolves over time. You can visit it each week and there’ll be new sculptures, drawings and maybe even a macchiato mess to clean up.


The Opposite of Healing the Universe

I’m assuming that most of you are not blessed wih a local tabloid newspaper. Our hometown tabloids, the New York Post and New York Daily News, are at their finest when screaming a headline. Here’s a fine example from this past week. Enjoy!

daily news