Artiste or Old Letch?

A friend was visiting from California and we went for a Chelsea gallery hop. It’s a satisfying way to spend a Saturday afternoon. We stepped into the Mitchell-Innnes & Nash gallery on 26th Street and was blinded by this light.

Monica Bonvicini
Bent and Winded
LED light tubes, wire, steel

I like bright, shiny things and these light tubes had some interesting angles.

A girl walked into the gallery. As she circled the installation I was struck by the contrast of soft human form against cold mechanical edge. I asked permission to take some pics and she said it was okay. She looks like part of the installation.

I loved how these came out. I thought they had genuine artistic merit and shared them with some friends. What I *didn’t* count on was some of the reactions I got. They accused me of being a base old letch.

One guy called me a “perv.” Another one said it was a pro move. What does that even mean? My intentions were honorable and above-board. It’s not like I asked for her name and number or invited her to join us. She really didn’t seem to mind. They spoiled the achievement.

The James Cohan gallery has a nice solo exhibit by Xu Zhen. I like this concept. Zhen is angry but I’m not sure who at or what he’s mad about. This is the only thing on a wall and it’s pretty stark. The shadows help.

Camera, aboriginal spear

Where did he get an aboriginal spear? You don’t just pick these things up in a flea market or pawn shop, do you? Can anyone from down under chime in here?

Also by Zhen is this thick, juicy piece. It’s a nice riot of color and texture but you can’t tell its construction until you’re up close.

Under Heaven
Oil on canvas, aluminum

This is a bouillabaisse of thick, juicy swirls and colors. The artist as a confectioner.

I wonder how many tubes of paint he used? It’s a fairly large piece.

The PACE Gallery is the Big Swinging Membrane in the neighborhood. These all-new works are by Julian Schnabel and is a return to form. From a safe distance it has the calm quality of an Impressionist canvas. They’re inspired by the roses growing in the cemetery near Van Gogh’s grave in Auvers-sur-Oise, France,

Up close, the truth is revealed.

Rose Painting (Near Van Gogh’s Grave) III
Oil, plates and Bondo on wood

The nine pieces are constructed using broken plates, china, cups, saucers, etc. They’re affixed to wood with bondo and painted over. They’re about $1 million each and all but one has sold.

Schnable made a series of ‘broken plate’ pieces early in his career. I think I remember reading that not long after they sold (for a lot of dough) the plates started falling off. Art is supposed to last generations and those pieces didn’t even make it past a hyper-modern fad.

This is in the Whitney’s Fast Forward: Painting Through the 1980s exhibit. The image is from the cover of a mass market spy paperback and I love it.

Walter Robinson
Baron Sinister, 1986
Oil on a printed bedsheet

While enjoying this Bond-esque image, who should walk in front of me but a Whitney security guard. Or is that, in fact, Baron Sinister himself?

Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr. Bond.

54 thoughts on “Artiste or Old Letch?

  1. That spear doesn’t look Australian from the photo. But I’ll ask some friends and come back.

    Your soft human form against the lights? I see an artistic juxtaposition, not a dirty old man. (Besides, you’re not old yet!:-) )

      • OK..That appears to be a steel point and, if so, must have been made after European colonisation as their weapons were all wood or stone(possibly shell in coastal places) before that. I expect Google could tell you more.

  2. I love the photos with the woman. It would be different if you had asked her to take her clothes off. Or bend over and snapped her backside. The confectioner (my fav) and broken china pieces are so awesome, I wish I had a million in spare change lying around to purchase them!

    • I would never have asked her to take her clothes off. However, if she had volunteered…

      I love all the pieces in this post. I wish I could take you to these galleries to see them in person. They are most fetching to stand in front of.

  3. I am quite taken with the confectionery piece as well. From a distance it looks like a rug. I’d like to see it in the real.
    I don’t think you are a letch – old or otherwise! The insinuation says more about your friends than you.

    • That’s the thrill about some of these pieces. You don’t realize what you’re looking at until you’re standing 2 feet away. It’s one thing from across the room and it’s an entirely different thing up close. What a great trick to play!

      I didn’t feel weird asking to take photos but in retrospect I kind of do.

  4. I don’t think you’re a letch or a perv, at least not for those photographs… just kidding. Anyway, I really liked them, and in fact liked them more because of the human being in the shot than I would have without her. You’re right, there’s a contrast there. It’s like looking into the golden abyss of a metalloid future somehow…

    That Bond-esque painting looks a lot like George Lazenby, Mr. One-and-Done. The Baron looks nefarious, as he should.

    • Trent! So nice to see you! Hope you and your family are well.

      You’re right about those photos. They’re far more interesting with her in them than not. And if I’m guilty of anything, it’s being naïve. I wonder if she thought it was a creep? You should click on those pics and get a good look.

      That guy does look like a cliché Bond villain. And I would watch ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ over any of the Roger Moore movies.

      • All doing well, having a blast with an ever-expanding family. Right now it’s March Break up here, so having some fun in the snow.
        I don’t think she would have let you photograph her if she really thought you were a creep, to be honest.
        As much as I love OHMSS, I kind of grew up in the Roger Moore era and I dearly love The Spy Who Loved Me. I also kind of live Moonraker, which is the same movie but in space. And yes, I have a fetish for Live and Let Die, for some reason, cheeseball stuff and all.

      • Glad to hear all is well. Enjoy the break. I’m sure you guys worked for it.

        I approached with all due respect and I think that was taken into consideration. I wasn’t militant about my request. It’s all about branding and how you gift wrap a request.

        I’ll give you Live and Let die. Maybe even The Spy Who Loved Me. But Moonraker is an abomination. Things have improved dramatically since. Just saw Daniel Craig play Iago in ‘Othello’. That guy is the real deal.

  5. Here’s one thing i never fucking worry about… people’s opinions, because as we know they’re like assholes, everyone has one. And it’s already been stated, the opinions given by said friends say more about their thoughts and mind than yours, you had a subject(s) and took photos, she’s not lying spread eagle in front of them she’s part of the whole composition of the picture, in short screw ’em…

    The Zhen piece Under Heaven is fantastic, i do like the Schnabel’s as well, i’m always intrigued by the use of different materials, now i’m just wondering how long it will take before they fall apart…

    • You’ve got to admit, she’s quite a tomato. I can almost see how they might get that impression. But I was more focused on how that light was bouncing off her and the color schemes.

      I wanted to reach out and cares that Zhen piece or try to pick a tiny chip off. I resisted my criminal urge.

  6. Why can’t you be both?
    Would people have a different opinion if she were merely average looking? They’re probably projecting their own guilt. She’s lovely, she’s consenting, you’re not exploiting her and it’s all beautiful. What’s wrong with beauty? GAAHH!
    Still, it made me think of the creepy but sad but creepy Kinks song “Art Lover.” Man in the park just likes looking at little girls (and then ruins it by saying “Come to daddy…”)

    • I AM BOTH. I didn’t consider it until after it was pointed out to me but maybe my subconscious did it on purpose. Who knows?

      I’m off to Google the Kinks. I’m actually a pretty big fan of theirs but don’t know that one. How good are there Kinks?! Not enough attention is paid.

  7. Those plates shouldn’t fall off, that’s BS. And no of course you’re not a letch, those photos are beautiful. She looks like part of the installation, for sure. Choose your next witticism is terribly witty, that one. Gem of a piece, this!

    • Perhaps he perfected his Bondo technique. I would hope so. I laughed because when I was kid we used Bondo to patch holes in cars that rusted through. Cars don’t really rust anymore like they used to.

      Just because she’s pretty doesn’t mean I lusted after her. She was quite a bit younger than I.

      • I had a Toyota celica held together by bondo it had leather interior and man that smelled good. ’84. Abandoned it on a street in Philly when we moved out here.

  8. You like bright, shiny things?

    I like those exhibits but the messy wires annoy me.

    Yeah, right. Nothing to do with her hot Asian looks, long raven hair and skinny jeans…. haha! I appreciate the achievement and the concept but of COURSE you are going to get ribbed for it!

    The camera and spear? – stupid.

    I like the pink texture but that’s all I like. I kind of want to eat it.

    The roses, I like.

    • Nope, nothing to do with those things you list AT ALL. I’m like a parrot. I like shiny objects.

      I wonder how those would look with the wires removed? Perhaps I’ll revisit, clip the wires and post new pics. You can decide for yourself.

      You don’t like how that spear is puncturing the lens? It’s a nice visual, methinks.

      If I revisit the confectionary, I’ll have a lick and let you know what happens.

  9. I need Monica Bonvicini to get my kitchen florescent lights to work. I never know when they will illuminate. It depends on the room temperature. Asking the girl to pose was a brilliant idea. As a fellow Art lover, I bet she enjoyed it too. People are so quick to put anyone with an idea down or
    label/judge them negatively. The truth is most people are jealous.
    At first, from the distance, I thought UNDER HEAVEN was seashells glued to a board. It must of been expensive to produce. I spent $5 buying a small tube of frosting just to cover 6 cupcakes. Very well done. It must of taken months. The detail is fantastic.
    BARON SINISTER reminds me of the FX TV animated show ARCHER. How unique to paint it on a flowery bed sheet. Good idea, maybe it will become the latest in hyper-modern fad.

    • Perhaps it’s because you have FLORESCENT lights and these are LED. Is LED more reliable?

      If she’s as big a narcissist as I am, I’ll bet my request was most welcomed.

      Not only is that a lot of oil paint, I’ll bet that piece is heavy as well. How many tubes I wonder? And he’s done more than one painting like that. There’s a circular one as well. Click on them for an even more detailed view. Fantastic.

      You’re the first one to mention what it’s painted on. I loved that aspect of it. And it’s not affixed to anything. Just hung on the wall. I blew on it a bit and it fluttered.

  10. …in a sense that your obsession with art may seem excessive to people, to the point where you look at a member of the opposite sex and thing, ooh, the art I could make her!
    But you’re right these LED installation do look better with the girl (especially 2nd picture with the girl) – because of the contrasts in shapes (lines/angles vs curves) and objects (dead vs living), the whole thing is unified by the same color scheme. It’s almost like the girl intentionally picked her clothes to match the exhibit.

    • I think I’ll take that. Being a sexual deviant seems a little more mainstream thank being an art weirdo. I’m an outlier.

      The artist/gallery should pay that girl to walk around the installation all day. It sure got my attention! Good point about the clothing. I hadn’t noticed that and you’re right.

  11. Love the frosting and the plates pictures, and the Bond spy being painted on sheets speaks to their sexy mystique, doesn’t it? The Whitney guard looks a set-up, playing a classic, Baron Von Badguy to the painted secret agent.

    • Hey, that’s a nice observation about the sheets vis-a-vie the mystique. Good volley. As far as the guard, I don’t know if I’d have posted that pic if he hadn’t walked in front of me asked made something more out of it. A happy accident.

  12. Pay no attention to those fools. Your picture pays homage to the womanly form by contrasting it with the hard-edged products of modern industry. And if she gave you a slight boner, so what? You’re made of flesh and blood, right?

  13. I think the juries out on whether it’s an aboriginal spear. The ends of aboriginal hunting spears are usually tapered at one end to fit into a wooden spear thrower; and fishing spears have several barbed points on the end. Does it mean never use a camera as a spear thrower?

    • Hey, you’re a new guy. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it. Welcome. Please wipe your feet.

      I think we’re getting closer to the truth on this spear. I might revisit the exhibit and demand a full explanation. Thanks for your input. It could mean don’t take photos of Aboriginals throwing spears.

    • Further, doesn’t the presence of the security guard (aka, Baron Sinister) improve that last pic as well? One wonders why galleries don’t simply hire models to hover around the works to give them further dimension.

      There is no rhyme or reason as to who get to make money creating art and who doesn’t. It’s a combo of luck, talent and a powerful agent who can convince someone that a spear chucked through a camera is a work of art.

  14. Hello stranger! I love the pictures with the girl in; if you were to pick a person to stand there for those pictures from a whole range of people, you couldn’t pick better than her; she’s perfect for that – do you think people were just teasing you about being a letch and didn’t really mean it? I think you were brave to ask her, but I also think that shows you weren’t being letchy (letchy? Lecherous!), because if you were having those thoughts then you’d have probably felt awkward asking her, and similarly she probably felt fine about saying yes because you didn’t come across that way.

    It reminded me of something though, about three years ago a photographer/artist friend I have took up body-painting, and he asked me if I would be a model for him to practice on. It involves being nude because it’s all over painting, and he wanted to photograph it too so that he could show people as examples of his work (he promised to crop my head out of any images he showed anyone). Anyway, I agreed, and it was all fine, I didn’t at all think he was being lecherous. But then later when I told some other friends about it they were laughing and saying I’d been a mug falling for it, the guys were saying “Oh yes, me too Vanessa, I want to practice my body-painting, get your clothes off, I’m going to throw paint you and take photos on my phone!” So then in hindsight I could see how it could be seen like that, but I totally didn’t feel like that when he asked me, or when we did it. It’s funny how we can see things so differently through someone else’s eyes!

    • How lovely to see you! I mistyped that as ‘how lively to see you’ and that’s also true. Hope you’re well. Welcome home.

      Isn’t she perfect? I wish I’d taken dozens more but I didn’t want to push my luck. I was very respectful when I approached her and I made eye contact, purposely avoiding staring at her chest. I was being a gentleman. Did you like the other pieces as well or not so much?

      The body paint scam is new to me. I’ll have to check that out. Will report back later on its effectiveness. I love that you were called a ‘mug.’ That made me laugh.

      First Trent Lewin and now you. And I thought it was going to be just another dull Friday. If you have time, read my previous post about jamming mobile phone service. It was a big hit. I think I struck a nerve.

  15. Even if you chose that girl over other people because she’s so attractive I don’t see how that makes you anything other than a normal man. Your pals were just teasing you, I’m sure. And, your choice was artistically perfect (in my humble…), as others have said, the contrast between the hard, jagged, bright piece and her soft humanness is wonderful. I like the wires, by the way, they make it feel dangerous.

    I find the speared camera disturbing, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    The confectionery painting, which I also thought was a rug at first (was it Scarlet who said that?), reminds me of Iced Gems, tiny, hard biscuits I loved as a child, and the crazy birthday cakes my mother used to make. I love it for that alone.

    I’m a sucker for Julian Schnable, I remember seeing photos of his garden in Vogue about 20 years ago and these paintings have taken me right back to that time. I would buy one in a blink if I had the money.

    I don’t usually like painting like the last ones (Baron Sinister), but making them on the kind of bedsheets I associate with maiden aunts and seaside landladies raises the stakes considerably here, and your security guard adds the perfect finishing touch. So much so I wonder if his job is to act that part, rather than guard.

    Have I missed anything, I hope not?

    • It’s interesting to consider whether or not her attractiveness had a bearing on the art itself. Does one thing have anything to do with the other? The gallery should give her a stipend to stand next to it during exhibition hours.

      When I entered the gallery, Under Heaven was on the far wall and I didn’t know WHAT to make of it. I didn’t think it was a rug. It had too much luminosity and sheen. But the truth wasn’t revealed until I got close. A fun surprise.

      Schnable is his own sideshow, which I think you sort of need if you want to be a contemporary artist. The piece is interesting in and of itself, but nine of them was a little overkill, Too, too much of one thing over and over. But if he can get $1M each, he should’ve done 18.

      I think the pattern on the sheet adds to the piece greatly. You scored a direct hit. It’s a genteel pattern behind that revolver and peril.

      That was a very thorough commentary. Thank you!

  16. I had to read it again to see that it was your friends who criticized you about the photos you took. I misread and thought it was perfect strangers observing you were the ones saying this. Friends are sometimes the dictionary definition of familiarity breeding contempt. The contrast is nice, btw. – Marty

    • The contrast is there star of those pics. Thanks. I suppose I can see where they’re coming from. That girl is almost young enough to be my daughter. But they know me better than that. They shouldn’t suspect my motives.

  17. I thought your photos of the young woman improved the piece greatly. You asked her permission, too. It’s not like you hit on her or behaved in creepy ways. So, a letch? I don’t think so – maybe your friends were just teasing (with a little jealousy thrown in).

    • Thank you. The pics without her are actually kind of ordinary and pedestrian, don’t you think? I think the reactions were a reflection of their own amoral tendencies. Not that I’m a priest but, as you say, I certainly didn’t try to hit on her.

  18. Equal time, Mark! I expect to see some eye candy with the art for the ladies next time! Would love to hear what your buddies say about that. (And no, Baron Sinister doesn’t do it for me.) lol
    Happy spring, entertaining post as always. 🙂

      • It depends… if they let me assist in the insane crimes for world domination, I let the hairlessness go. I’m cool with baldness, but hairless? Not so much.
        And it also depends on whether or not their superpowers are awesome enough to make up for their scars, deformities, and early death… there’s a lot to consider, Mark, not an easy question. 🙂

  19. Who said you were being a perv? Other people there? It seems like a fairly innocent request, and there is a lovely contrast.

    Oooh that textured piece! They look like sea shells. Or big gobs of cupcake icing, and absolutely delectable!

    This is as close as I get to going to a NYC art gallery.

    • Jeff, that’s who. He texted me and called me a ‘perv.’ I think he was jealous. He doesn’t get out much and seems to resent anyone who does.

      I thought it looked like icing. It sure doesn’t taste like icing. Don’t ask me how I know.

      Aren’t you just down the road a bit? Now that the weather is improving you should take a trip in. It’d be like seeing an old friend.

      • Jeff was jealous.

        I do get in to the city, probably twice a month. Usually with my kid. I never go in to see art galleries, but I could be persuaded if a friend met me…

  20. Called you a “perv”? Vacuous sh_t-for-brains is what they are. *THEY* have lusty thoughts about her (I’m gay, but look at her curves), hence “perv”y thoughts; so, therefore, you do too!? I’m not too keen on her pieces, I luv the Bonds however, most especially the shot with the docent in it.

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