Look Mom, More Twinkies!

I’m not really stuck on having Twinkies in the header.  I was just searching for continuity.  If showing the underbelly evidence of how they get the cream inside of Twinkies represented teaching art, I figured, why not have my own little trope?

The twinkie photos, BTW, were actually source material for a detour/little series of paintings I started in 2002 or 2003.  Never a good one, they segued into all the paintings I did on giant photo prints of sausages.  Raw bratwurst.  Five feet long.  Winners, every last; I’m also sort of glad I no longer have to listen to people tell me how I should try to copy Wim Delvoye, in a Deiter Roth sort of way.

If only I could have, I guess…

So, yeah, teaching is…  In the same way you know some people just won’t disappear from your life even when you don’t have much to do with them anymore, teaching art will come back to me.  Or, I to it.

Now though, I administrate art.  And how the things to administer are piling on.  Exciting things.  Good things.  Blind spots and obstacles I’ve never had to deal with before.  Not a lot of advice.  Mine field isn’t the right metaphor, it implies malice.  Maybe it’s more like I’m crossing the Alps.  You know, if all my elephants don’t die, it’ll be awfully cool to be on the other side.

When you teach, people you don’t know give you some nod to respect, a kind of appreciation, without knowing whether you’re even any good at what you do.  When you’re an art teacher, you get a genuine “aww that’s soooo nice!”, you help kids express themselves (whatever that is), more often than not on an understood assumption that this art is something no one is actually going to do as an working adult.  When you teach art in college, moreover as an (Assistant) Professor (the second word is the only operative one outside of academia) of art, you must have the intellectual deep inside scoop on the exotic world of the Artist (how do you double capitalize “A”?) . It’s a varied sea of mythologies, but it’s out there.

As an administrator, in art, and a government employee, I am now at least three things people don’t understand, may condescend, and possibly revile.  My job title may be among the greatest insults on right-wing radio.  Sure, that last part makes me kind of happy.  But, it’s not lost on me that, amidst coctails (bottled beer), I’ve gone from “Wow, I don’t have any idea about anything you do, you must be so great!” to “Oh, I don’t have any idea about anything you do.  I guess we need people to do, um, that.  You must feel great to have a secure job!”

I’m fine with that.  I don’t go out much anyway.


For the Last Time, the Recession is Not Good for Art

The argument I keep hearing goes something like this, “Now that all the idiots aren’t blowing hedge fund (or ponzi scheme) money on idiot art, all us here good artists can ascend to our rightful place.  People will now see the bargains on quality and everything will be OK.”

First, there’s the whole “quality” debate.  Quotation marks, I know… May I refer you to Dave Hickey in the February Art in America.  Honestly, if I didn’t fear the wrath of the Scathing Online Schoolmarm (were I to merit such attention) I’d have put both “good” and “art” in quotes.  Because, well, you know.

After that there’s tangible, social reality.

Alexandra Peers came down on my side in the NY Times http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/55021/. Or, I came down on hers — whichever it were.

She offers a more level, fact-based argument.

I’d like to add a different two cents.

First, I happen to have first hand knowledge that bad art exists at all price ranges, as does good art.  I sort of chafe at the implication that quality is somehow being suppressed by hipsters and wealthy art fashionistas.  There’s a bit of Van Gogh-ism in it — a romantic mythology of geniuses enduring obscure squalor.  A direct to DVD Disney movie.

Next, let me ask, what makes you think that all the people guffawing over themselves for having dropped a now-aging YBA‘s name over a $30 coctail will be interested in your “real” art, anyway?

Those who have unloaded  unheard of assloads of cash on Takashi Murakami sculptures (go ahead, click it) or on Damien Hirst’s best efforts to transubstantiate pure marketing into concrete form are not really looking for the capital “A” art of such rumored low-priced quality.  Different people want a lot of different things from the vast diaspora of what we used to call art, that we still call art.  I find it difficult to believe that the high-rollers have all been duped.  Their relationship with a thing we spell “a-r-t” is something different, something more Wall St., more K Street, an exchange of ambition; an air of the old, old world of the Collector.  The objects they buy and sell do indeed carry meaning, just like art does.  I’m inclined to believe they’ve been getting exactly what they wanted from their objects, and I’m not of a disposition to try to deny them any of it.

The art world, or any subsection of it, is very much a dialogue about what we value.  And, the values run deeper than the objects that convey them.  To think that someone fawning over Shephard Fairey will suddenly drop cash for a deep, extended, meaningful engagement with a two-dimensional surface is sort of silly, isn’t it?  It’s like saying, “You like toast.  Man, have I got some tacos you’ll just die for.”

Barring the possibility that newly unemployed art collecting elite bide their time with art appreciation classes, the best I can imagine is that if the fast-flying spectacles of the art world do indeed ride out on a wave of unfundedness, no more ironically post-ironic boobies to condescend over, at least a bunch of us will be less irritated when we finally get invited to a vernissage.

Meanwhile, my government-supported job to create opportunities for visual artists and (eventually) open an art center will plod right along in defiance of any market drop that comes our way.

Warm my Heart, Oh Sweet Tacos.

I’m slowly learning that my new office is situated among one of the few, if not only areas in DC Metro where a guy can get Chicago-quality Mexican food.

I haven’t posted for a while because that’s about all I can say for the job so far.  And, the rest of it is occupying the rest of my energy.

Good f**ing honest Mexican food though.

And I can’t tell you how much finding a solid taqueria just made my whole week.  It really did.

So, I’ve learned that, unlike Chicago, the Hispanic community in Prince George’s County, MD lives, by and large, segregated from the rest of the population.  It’s a diverse place, the wealthiest majority black county in the U.S., and not a place where people generally exclude or look down on one another.   But, none of my co-workers ever go to the Spanish-speaking businesses.  Heck, most of them don’t know what a real taco looks like — just figure what they get at Chipotle must be it.  Can’t say I’ve ever been inside a Chipotle restaurant to know whether or not they’re right.

I went to a Mexican place down the street where lunch cost $10.  First sign the place isn’t authentic, right there.

I went to the taqueria by where all the day laboreres hang out.  Plastic table cloths and gnarly aloe pants in the window made it seem promising.  But, the meat in my torta was “aged”, at best.

For me, Mexican food is fresh, straightforward, and served with humanity.

I’m not really much of a Tex-Mex guy.  I know that’s what most non-Hispanics outside of Chicago think of when I say “Mexican food” though.  So, I’ve learned to not talk about it too much and to not take related restaurant advice from people without substantive inquiry.

So, yeah.  Around a corner, on a side street, Edmonston Rd., 3 tacos al pastor and a soda for $5.99.  Lunch special.

And I don’t know why white people are afraid to go in those places.  I go, I’m white.  I suppose eating there seems natural to me because  I lived in Chicago, where all kinds of people eat in Mexican restaurants, run by Mexican people, with Mexican food and Mexican music and sometimes crazy Mexican TV and if there were language snafus we just worked them out.  No big deal.  The waitresses here look at me funny though, as if I might be lost.  Just at first.  Truth is that they’re always nice to me, like I’m a customer.  I eat, like a customer.  And everything works exactly like it does everywhere else.

Except, the food is better and cheaper.

With heart.  Like a thick torsoed old lady who could beat me in arm wrestling if she ever thought about such things (‘cuz she doesn’t)  just finished mashing up my salsa in the old molcajete just  a minute ago. The tortilla chips are properly deep fried and why do so many American people not know that you have to cook tortillas even when they’re just wrapped around tacos.  Properly, a taco should have two tortillas, warm.  White people places always serve doughy tortillas — I can’t even guess why.  What I wanted, what I found, was direct, honest about the flavors of its ingredients, and embracing, just like you’d want a person to be.

Squeeze your lime on top.  Eat your radish garnish if you want.  Tip.  Then leave back to the world where you make your paycheck, where nothing has anything to do with humans, despite the best efforts by the staff.

Lucian Freud is a Funny Guy


Lucian Freud, the world’s most expensive living artist, has joined the ranks of a select group of artists: those who have designed labels for Château Mouton Rothschild wine.

…previous artists include Miro, Chagall, Braque, Picasso, Dali, Warhol, Bacon, Haring, and Balthus.

The artists receive no payment for their contribution other than cases of the Bordeaux-region wine.

@ http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/30447/freud-designs-mouton-label/

Things That are Awesome, Especially Dave Letterman

These days, by the time I get home from the first 9-5 job I’ve ever had (yeah, and I’ve been fine and middle-class-ish and stuff) and finish my stint in DC traffic, all I really want to do is open the tap on my box of wine and convince the cats my attention is not what they need.

By the time that’s done and I’ve cooked dinner, blogging is nearly out of the question.

Besides, much of what’s occupying my mind amounts to bitching and moaning — things I will not descend to on this space.

I would like to write a post, inspired by voluminous rantings against Shepard Fairey, about erasing the meaning from history.  He’s sort of the opposite of Nancy Spiro, in the way an artist might use history to communicate ideas.  He’s like infant-sized Che T-shirts, whereas Nancy Spiro challenges her audience to learn more so that our broadened horizons may illuminate us about gender inequality in our own time.

Maybe  I’ll get to that post soon.

There are others.

In the meantime, I would like to tide you over with two awesome things.

One:  Twelve Animals.  Kentaro Nagai’s animation/designs reconfiguring maps of the earth into animal figures.

Two:  David Letterman interviewing Joaquin Phoenix.  It ends with, “I’m sorry you couldn’t be here with us tonight Joaquin.”

I remember, can’t forget, an interview Dave Letterman did years ago with an absolutely wasted Harrison Ford.  I’ve always respected Dave for the way he walked Harrison through that — not that any mortal could have completely obscured the fact that Mr. Ford appeared to have lost a battle to bring himself down from a few rails by cracking a bottle whiskey.  Not that I know what he was actually up to prior to his appearance.

Here in 2009, Joaquin Phoenix was irreparably bazooted off his gourd.  No recognition of the very idea that he’s on national TV.  Too f**d up for me to guess what he’s done to himself.

I link to it for all of you who have navigated evenings, day times,  of dealing with exceptionally intoxicated people, perhaps those of you who went to art school, you who have grown up and formed your lives in such a way that you won’t have to do that any more.  — those of you who know you’ve done this to other people, but are past a point where you would want to shut down that much of your brain again.

More than that, in the context of remembering that Harrison Ford interview, I honestly admire the way that David Letterman politely shows absolutely no respect for a guest that comes onto his show slurring his speech and  unaware of the movie he’s supposed to be promoting.  The entire audience is in on the jokes at Joaquin’s expense.  And Joaquin leaves apparently unaware that he’s a total dick.  His agent will tell him tomorrow.  Dave is the pro of late night pros

Shephard Fairey is the Vanilla Ice of Guerilla Art

The realization came to me during my commute home last night when “Under Pressure” came on the radio.

Mr. Fairey is even in the midst of his own sampling/plagiarism law suit.

Vanilla Ice, as you remember, continued a long tradition of awkwardly forcing white faces onto music that would continue to for some time be performed better by black people.

Think there’s a consumer niche that wants to buy MC Hammer records but has otherwise refused to move forward from Reconstruction?  Man, have I got a guy for you.  And you should see his hair!

Anyway, when “Under Pressure” comes on, I still sing “Ice Ice Baby” until David Bowie takes over.

I even tried to learn that side-to-side step with my pants rolled tight, when I was 13.

And thus it all hit me.

I had read this earlier in the day yesterday: How phony is Shepard Fairey? (found on Arts Journal).

You know, we all love Banksy and our leftist warriors for the public visual space.  May I refer you to the always delightful Pixelator.  And, of course Knitta Please.

But after Jean-Michel Basquiat gave us all that trouble back in the eighties…

Ugh, new money.

I think they’ve got their guy now though

A Designer and an Artist!  How 2008!

“When I copy, it’s a reference.  If you don’t get it, it’s cuz yer not as smart as yer supposed to be.”  “Duh.”

I think I’ve already mentioned that Mr. Fairey’s art is, at it’s root, a more professional execution of an assignment I’ve given Intro to Computer Art students as a first assignment using Adobe Illustrator.  Moreover, I inherited the assignment from Debra Davis, who was my supervisor at the University of Toledo.

So, at that, I would like us all to remember all of the things that people want from their art world that are not Art.  Truth is, they already have them and you’re just mean if you want to take away the things that make them happy.  We can all take a deep breath, smile and, relax.  Some dude has figured out how to update Patrick Nagel to become more popular than the rest of us, so good for him.  If you became an artist because you thought it would lead you to fame and fortune, you’re probably not smarter than anyone you feel like criticizing.

Oh Dear Lord in Celestial Heavenliness, What I Would do for an Italian Beef

Sandwich that is.

I’m not talking about Fabio here…

There’s been a lot of Chicago on TV this week.  And, you know, I love that with all its internationalism you can get just about any kind of food there is here in DC (if you can afford it).  But one thing you can’t get is Chicago food.

Monday night Anthony Bourdain reminded me that I never did make it to that place that cooks its fries in duck tfat.  Part of the problem was that for a while, the only times I passed it were when I was coming back from the (park district) gym.  Didn’t have the heart to erase all that work(pun intended).

Then I came home today and that one guy who’s show I’ve avoided because his commercials make him look like a douchebag is on the TV eating an Italian Beef (sandwich).    (Parentheticals included for you non-Chicagoans — just know that “sandwich” is understood but not said aloud, right.)  You can’t get those things here.  You just can’t.  You can get gyros and passable burritos, good ones if you avoid places where white people go, and even Five Guys that everybody in DC thinks is so damned special is pretty much just like a normal Chicago old school burger joint (which there are a million of).  But, you can’t get Italian Beefs.  And it’s not that I would want or that my arteries could stand for me to eat them all the time.  Just that they’re good, dry with hot peppers and mayo, and that I can’t get one.


That, and I’d sacrifice a finger for a proper elote.

If you don’t know what elotes are, and your not familiar with non-American Mexican food, any description I can give won’t help you.  I’ve tried before.  They’re corn, usually on the cob, but sometimes available in cups, with Cotija cheese that most white people think is Parmesan when they see it, Mexican cream, which is Mexican and not acceptably substituted with non-Latino creams, and, properly (if you ask me) with powdered red pepper.  They are so, so good.  People have doubted me.  So, if you find yourself among them, it’s OK.  However, no one who I’ve ever seen try elotes has not liked elotes.  They are so, so good.  Did I say that? They are messy.  And, in my last two former hoods, they’re available on the street within a block or two of wherever you are, cheap.  Take one down with a liquado, please.

And don’t even ask me how many times an old dude/lady selling tamales out of a cooler has saved me when I didn’t feel like cooking dinner.

I’d trade in all our Ethiopian restaurants for a little of that.  And that would really hurt.

Oh, yeah, and your “Pizzeria Uno” doesn’t use the same recipe as the tourist-trap original, it just bought the name, and Chicago hot dogs are way, way, WAY better than NY hot dogs, or DC’s for that matter.  What’s with the red sauce on the onions?  Geez.