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the monkey agendas

Post #392 • October 21, 2004, 7:09 AM • 7 Comments

I'm willing to chalk it up to post-exhibition depression (how common is it for artists to get depressed after a show?) but the following (or something like it) came out of my yapper over sushi with fellow artists this evening (as I write at 9:30 pm on this rainy Wednesday night; caffeine, green tea included, loosens my tongue and typing fingers as much as alcohol. Damn, I had a Materva today too. There goes bedtime):

"I'm not doing the retreat this December because it's the same weekend as Art Basel and I'm hoping to get some writing work out of it. But you know? I shouldn't be writing about Art Basel. I should be in Art Basel, or trying to get my work in there. Writing about art is ridiculous. It's like there's a monkey chattering away in a tree, and I'm sitting under the tree with a notepad writing, 'You'll never guess what silly thing the monkey just said!' I mean, who gives a shit? It's a monkey!"

And I'll add that it's wall-to-wall monkeys out there in the art world. Screwball daytime soap opera at the Getty, impossibly biased competition at the American Academy in Rome (this year's fellows include Lucky DeBellevue, whose project description, entitled "Friends, Romans & Countrymen," declares that "I am interested in exploring empirically the relationship between my work and medieval sculpture, painting, and interiors. Utilitarian contemporary Italian design also interests me as a resource and visual index for future projects." Empirically? Visual index? Monkey chatter! I shall not lend you my ears! But there he is, going off to Rome with his pipe cleaners), art magazines that think only New York exists...

Back here at home, I've gotten to the point that I perceive something as pretty good simply because it doesn't totally suck. Write about the art shows? Why? Ivan Toth Depena has a show up at Ingalls of his photos of trees and parking lots at night; I find them inferior to his video at the Miami Art Museum and to the urban night scenes of local photographers William Maguire and Joe Tamargo. In the other room at Lemon Sky there was a nice photograph by Anthony Pearson in an otherwise uninspired show curated by Amir Zaki. I can sneeze these sentences into existence. They are unnecessary stains on silence and nothingness, as Beckett put it. Why write them? And not to insult you or anything, but why the hell are you reading them?

I take back what I said about Art Basel. Monkeys with credit cards are still monkeys. And if Art Basel has any function besides the encouragement of the use of credit cards, I cannot identify it at the moment, and doubt I will be able to even when I am no longer depressed nor jacked up on caffeine.

Today I found out about the Raphael exhibit in London and fantasized what it would take to get it down to Miami. Go on, laugh. You're right - nothing would. Museum Park in all its glory is not arrayed to handle this type of exhibition as part of its mandate, assuming it doesn't change from its current one. And don't get all over my ass with that "aw, you only like old art and don't like any new art" bullshit. I got good tickets for Laurie Anderson this weekend. It's just the unacknowledged nature of art that compared to Raphael, even compared to Laurie Anderson, most art just chews rocks.

This contemporary art world mess has been plaguing my mind lately, hence posts about trying to generate alternatives to openings (didn't work) and oddballs who stiff-armed the mainstream. After mulling over it for about a year, I was recently, finally, able to articulate to myself what I want to do with the social entrepreneurship effort I'd been thinking about off and on. Because, let's face it, the crap won't disappear no matter how hard I rail at it. But I can generate something different, something that operates by its own rules, something that asserts an agenda instead of responding to agendas already operating. You know - the monkey agendas.

Quickly - how do you know that the beauty at the above Raphael link is Catherine? From the wheel. Heathens tried to spin her to death. When it miraculously didn't work, they cut her head off with a sword. Such was the power of her faith. Here's to faith.




October 21, 2004, 4:56 PM

Have faith, blessed heart. You are a beauty, nevermind the monkeys.

After my last solo show I was soooo depressed, I didn't even realize it. Someone had to point it out. After months of no studio work and no openings I came back (and just between you and me, I don't think anyone cared)....I'm still adjusting.

You will go on. There are many that support you (even when we sometimes don't know how to talk with you about you're work :-) ) and think good thoughts about you.

Have faith and take rest.

I'm off to the studio!



October 21, 2004, 4:57 PM

well, atleast i'm not the only one who goes a little crazy sometimes. keep the faith, brother. the red sox beat the yankees, anything can happen now!



October 21, 2004, 4:59 PM

Clearly you are going through some kind of postpartum anxiety. Don't worry, it will pass.

If I am not mistaken, the wheel was not used to "spin" the victim but simply as a convenient form on which the body could be attached for whatever the torturer had in mind. "Spin" might be an appropriate term for whatever rationalization inspired the torture in the first place.


that guy in the back row

October 21, 2004, 5:00 PM

Sounds like your taste is becoming more and more refined. Welcome to my hell. Most people don't have the faculties to recognize good art, much less go look for it even if they could. We are pretty much screwed, with our abilities wandering around this cultural wasteland. On the bright side, death has always been a good career move for the artist, so why not live a little and relax before our inevitable demise.



October 21, 2004, 5:02 PM

Franklin, you know, of course, I sympathize. The world is full of unsatisfactory people and their consequences, and they're not likely to change, let alone disappear. I'm sure it's healthier to do your own thing, as opposed to reacting to monkey business--especially since that's all that monkeys can be expected to do. It's like the impossibility of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear; it's better to forget the sow and find some silkworms instead.

You really shouldn't feel any defensiveness of any kind about Raphael, though I understand how someone in your position is bound to get flack for that from assorted simians. I love Raphael; I'm not going to Laurie Anderson, and if anybody has a problem with that, they can stuff it.


Jerome du Bois

October 21, 2004, 8:11 PM


According to the Catholic story -- boy, did that bring back memories! -- the Wheel was wrenched loose from the torturers' hands by divine hands, and managed to kill a couple of the executioners; then one drew a big sword and decapitated her, and milk, not blood, spouted from her neck.

And, for what it's worth from someone who has not examined all your artwork, or seen any of it in person, your recent self-portraits are disturbing and uncanny and send a chill up my spine from most of a continent away.

And I'm right with you on the monkeys, but now I have to get back to recording and commenting on some of their recent chatter in my bailiwick. Grrr is right.




October 21, 2004, 10:45 PM

One of THE major problems with So. Florida in general is that we only have books as references to old masters works, unless you head to Sarasota's Ringling Museum. I'm not a die-hard old masters lover but, it is part of the culture in which I live. When I last visited LACMA, the curator of education told me their collection had so many holes in it. "Yeah, and we don't even have such works for students to look at if they really wanted to." I remember my drawing class taking a trip to LACMA to look at and, copy drawings, from the Block Collection (Cezanne was my choice).

Finding other choices to the artworld monkeys... something just came up in my world yesterday. I'll have to see how it plays out before I say anything about it. Of course, it deals with Art Basel.



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