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I've never quibbled if it was ribald

Post #1438 • January 5, 2010, 9:56 AM • 52 Comments

Supergirl subscribes to Vanity Fair, from which I just learned an interesting tidbit:

According to his son, [Bob] Guccione spends much of his time painting (he started Penthouse as a way to subsidize his art career) and working on his memoir.

The only work I can find images of indicate that too much effort went into the subsidy project for the main one to succeed. (Guccione also has a site devoted to his work but the gallery page is down.) Still, in 1994, the New York Times ran an article on the exhibition of Guccione's private collection at the Nassau County Museum of Art, which included "Degas and Renoir, Botticelli and Van Gogh."

In other art-meets-porn news (via AJ), women depicted in a mural painted on the side of the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas were forced to don pasties.

Post title comes from the great Tom Lehrer.




January 5, 2010, 10:59 AM

I always thought it was pronounced RYE-BALD but to rhyme with "quibbled" it would have to be RIBBLED. On-line sources seem to think that both are correct. I'm too lazy to haul down the OED.

Lehrer is one of those semi-forgotten geniuses of the 50s, along with Gene Shepherd, Ernie Kovacs and Jonathan Winters.

"Erotic Heritage Museum"? There's a strange animal! I wonder what's in it.




January 5, 2010, 11:03 AM

The "Heritage" bit is pretty ridiculous, especially given the site. I mean, what is this, colonial Williamsburg?



January 5, 2010, 11:09 AM

Oh, I just found out there's a place called Swedesboro, New Jersey. I had no idea there was any Scandinavian element there. They must have been pretty marginal Swedes.



January 5, 2010, 11:29 AM

I wonder what's in it.

Here you are.


Chris Rywalt

January 5, 2010, 11:29 AM

We just passed signs for Swedesboro on our way south to Virginia Beach and back to visit my family for Christmas. I wondered aloud to my long-suffering wife if New Jersey also had a Wopville and Poletown. Maybe Finnburg. I further made some Swedish Chef-like noises. Bork bork bork!

Other town names I always enjoy on our trip: Pocomoke, MD, which always occasions a verse or two of the late Beach Boys' hit "Pokomoke" -- "Assateague, Chincoteague, ooh I wanna leave" -- and Onancock, VA, which may be named after an Indian word (like a lot of things in the vicinity) but sounds redundant if you know your Bible.

OP, I always thought it was rye-bald (kind of like my name) too, but I hardly ever know the correct pronunciation of words I only read. I still sometimes read the s as silent in "misled".

Guccione's work could be worse. It looks like it might be okay in person. Hard to say.

I dig that mural, though. Fat chicks rule!

Watch out with the porn links, though, Franklin. You could end up down a road we're all too familiar with.


Chris Rywalt

January 5, 2010, 11:35 AM

Turns out Swedesboro is a historic part of New Sweden. I must have missed that day in history class.



January 5, 2010, 11:49 AM

Speaking of Ernie Kovaks, here is the wonderful Percy Dovetonsils.



January 5, 2010, 11:55 AM

Sorry, it's spelled Kovacs, and the clip is circa 1958.



January 5, 2010, 11:58 AM

If I remember correctly, New Sweden gets a bit of discussion in George R. Stewart's Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. A very enjoyable book, if it does at times read like a just-so story.


Chris Rywalt

January 5, 2010, 12:05 PM

Percy reminds me of Christopher Walken's Continental, which is itself a spoof of an old show starring Liberace. My Aunt Joan used to love it, apparently never quite catching on that young women were not Liberace's type.



January 5, 2010, 12:18 PM

The essay for the Erotic Museum is definitely worth reading: "We invite you to behold and explore the vast array of socio-cultural perspectives depicting our erotic heritage,", Sounds like the art writing we all know and love.

They also boast "the world's only Eros Chapel." I suppose they not only perform Las Vegas weddings there but encourage their immediate consummation.

Sweden was a big power in the early 17th C and established a company with settlements along the Delaware River in southwest NJ, north Delaware and southeast Pa. There were also Dutch and German settlers. The region was rife with conflict and New Jersey emerged as a colony under Berkely and Carteret later in the century. It is a very complex history because so much was changing. I have an ancestor who was Carteret's surveyor so I have read up on it.


Chris Rywalt

January 5, 2010, 1:06 PM

I found the Wikipedia page on New Sweden interesting but your first-person account, OP, is better.

My high school football team was named the Peglegs after Peter Stuyvesant, our namesake. Good name, right? Old Peter is mostly known as the guy who surrendered New Amsterdam to the British. The version of the story I heard is entertaining: Seems the British pulled into New York Harbor and told the people of New Amsterdam they could keep their houses, businesses, money, language, and essentially everything they already had, only they had to install a new British governor. Stuyvesant thought that was a terrible idea. The people shipped him right out to the British.

Peter went home to Holland where he was tried for treason or desertion or something, but then everyone felt bad for him and let him go. He returned to New York, I think, and set up a farm on the east side of Manhattan, on which my high school would eventually be built, and a bunch of apartment buildings.

I did a drawing a few years ago for an alumni directory or something like that. It's Peter Stuyvesant looking at the cornerstone of the old school building, which due to years of sidewalk replacements, appears to be sinking into the street.

It seems Pete also played a part in securing New Jersey against the Swedish hordes. Good for him!



January 5, 2010, 1:15 PM

Well, I still think Scandinavians had absolutely no business in Jersey. I mean, please.



January 5, 2010, 1:40 PM

Damn right, Jack. Send 'em to Minnesota, where they belong.

First person, Chris? Not really. I was just a babe in arms when they divided up NJ.



January 5, 2010, 2:24 PM

Exactly, OP. Minnesota for sure.



January 5, 2010, 3:33 PM

Kenneth Noland died.



January 5, 2010, 5:38 PM

I am so sorry. He was one of the greats.



January 5, 2010, 5:48 PM

The irresponsible Roberta Smith writes:

"Mr. Noland’s work was championed by Clement Greenberg and other formalist art critics, but in the beginning it was also greatly admired by more wide-ranging critics, including Donald Judd. "


Chris Rywalt

January 5, 2010, 5:57 PM

Well, the Swedes are back in the form of Ikea. Damn, I love their meatballs.


Tom Hering

January 5, 2010, 6:11 PM

I don't feel sorry for the Swedes, even though all we hear lately is one Saab story after another.



January 5, 2010, 6:34 PM

Very good Tom. Humor at my level, for sure.

Jeez, MC. That's a real hummer. Donald Judd, "wide-ranging critic"? Donald Judd, who was famous for liking little else but his own work and roundly condemned anything with the tiniest spark of life to it? Who moved his whole kit and kaboodle to a place virtually devoid of animate life? Good grief! She is a real winner, that lady.



January 5, 2010, 6:40 PM

to get a little taste of vegas in a recent movie, check out "hangover". very funny.



January 5, 2010, 6:41 PM

"Irresponsible" is too kind, too benign. As OP has already indicated, the woman is either an ignoramus or worse--I expect the latter. How these people get so far is, well, perfectly par for the course. Disgraceful, to say the least.



January 5, 2010, 6:43 PM

Judd, by the way, was a jackass, but I suppose he was bound to overcompensate, or try to, at any rate. Citing him as a credible critic is utterly discreditable.


George R

January 5, 2010, 7:59 PM

Kenneth Noland RIP.

Robert Hughes on Kenneth Noland: Art: Pure, Uncluttered Hedonism Not totally flattering, but hits the nail on the head.



January 5, 2010, 11:28 PM

Roberta Smith should either be fired for her gross incompetance, or, like Holland Carter, be given a Pulitzer. One of the two. I can't decide which.



January 5, 2010, 11:28 PM

Like other critics who are fluent writers and trenchant when trashing pretentious art - Jed Perl, Hilton Kramer and some others - when it came to the good stuff Hughes couldn't see past his nose.



January 5, 2010, 11:35 PM

Robert Hughes hitting the nail on the head,with regard to Noland? I don't think so. Hughes was much more successful than I was as an art critic for Time magazine because he toadied up to the conservative mass circulation of the magazine by touting sappy realists like John Koch, and occasionally snorting at artworld icons like Julian Schnabel or the Whitney annuals, while at the same time toadying up to to the in-groups of the art world by taking pot shots at Greenberg. All this won him 30 years on the weekly newsmagazine, a record I couldn't begin to emulate (but then it took me just 13 years to realize Time wasn't the beginning and ending of life). I really don't like Hughes's use of the term "hedonism." Although technically it means only "the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life," its connotations are too negative --- the implications of selfishness & self-indulgence & lack of concern with the rest of the world. I think any painter who tries to create beauty also thinks that maybe this is doing something good for one's fellow humans, to give them something to enjoy. I think this was more like Noland's attitude.



January 6, 2010, 1:39 AM

The Hughes 1977 review of Ken Noland was recycled in 1986, as a review of the Morris Louis retrospective at MOMA. In it, the plausible but mistaken final line for Noland - "It takes more than talent and stripes—however delectable the color—to become a master" morphed into the absurd ", in art, is not necessarily enough".



January 6, 2010, 1:46 AM

An analog to what Hughes said in the Louis review might be, "putting more points on the board than your opponent, in the NFL, is not necessarily enough".



January 6, 2010, 10:52 AM

And as Vince Lombardi said: "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."



January 6, 2010, 12:07 PM

Greenberg gave a talk at MoMA during the Morris Louis retrospective. At the end of it, he dealt with Hughes by simply saying, Beauty IS enough.:


Chris Rywalt

January 6, 2010, 6:57 PM

Quick question, off topic: Did Greenberg have a policy about requests to comment on someone's art? I ask because I've gotten a few artists recently asking me to look at their work -- not inviting me to a show but just asking for an opinion -- and I'm not sure how to handle it exactly. Obviously there are the caveats about looking at JPEGs and so forth, but aside from that.

Heck, forget Greenberg. Franklin, OP, John, you're professorial. Do you have (formal or informal) policies?



January 6, 2010, 9:20 PM

All right, Chris. You like drawing, so assume I'm the artist and try this:

Young Girl

It's not a true drawing, but a crayon-manner engraving after a drawing, but never mind that.



January 6, 2010, 11:58 PM

Although I haven't had as much experience as others you asked about this, Chris, I have had artists ask me to look at their work. My standard answer, if I'm not already familiar with their work, is that they should wait until they have work in a show --- preferably a solo exhibition, but even a few pieces in a group show will do. Then please send me an announcement & write a note on it & I'll try to get to see the show. If I like what I see, great, and we can take it to another level. If I don't like it, I don't have to say so, or if pressed I can try to think up some tactful email. But what if I am only seeing the work for the first time in a studio situation & don't like it? It's a difficult situation. I know artists are sensitive (so am I, about my own writing). I know that the artist will very probably be hurt if I say I don't like the work, but I can't lie & say that I do like it if I don't. The same situation arises when artists volunteer to meet me at a gallery & show me their work there. There is nothing so distracting as having an artist stand behind me & breathe down my neck while I'm trying to evaluate his/her work.

A number of artists in the past have started out as critics: Fairfield Porter, Robert Goodnough, Donald Judd (who praised Roy Lichtenstein's first show at Castelli for its formal beauties -- that I suppose is why Roberta Smith thinks of him as a wide-ranging critic). Sidney Tillim kept on painting & writing throughout a long career. Porter & Goodnough were both better-than-average artists, and even Tillim had his moments. You will make some friends that way, too, but only with galleries where you can establish some common ground with the proprietors. If you say what you really think about Gerhard Richter, Marion Goodman is just never going to give you a show!



January 7, 2010, 1:23 AM

Chris, I'll look just about anytime invited because I like to look. Studios don't bother me at all, especially if it is someone I am not familiar with. The studio is a good place to become familiar with the work. Even when I know the work, I probably prefer the studio to the gallery most of the time. Seems like the difference between seeing an animal in the woods and in the zoo.

The worst thing you can do is say nothing. It is almost always possible to be constructive, in one way or another, no matter how short the work might be. I've experienced a few who then told me I was all wet, that it was perfect as is, and so on. That's an impasse. They don't happen that often.


Chris Rywalt

January 7, 2010, 12:05 PM

Jack: I'd never heard of crayon-manner engraving. I find it amusing that it's like an early version of Photoshop, where you can choose your brush shape -- crayon-manner engraving uses tools with irregular heads to simulate charcoal, crayon, or Conté on paper. Pretty funny. Apparently crayon-manner engravings have passed for original drawings, too.

Obviously the "drawing" is technically proficient. I'm a little thrown off, as I always seem to be, by the shifting standards of feminine beauty -- the sitter looks a little odd to me. It may also be that succeeding generations of genetic mixing have left few people who look like this. Beyond those things, I'd say the drawing as a whole lacks life -- it's very stonelike, as if drawn from a bust, not a live person. (I'd add that it's clearly in the Hockney-defined optical aid tradition.) Clearly it's the effort of an expert in their field.


Chris Rywalt

January 7, 2010, 12:13 PM

Piri: Having the artist right there does make it difficult. The last time an artist invited me to his show when I got there, after we'd talked, he offered to tour me through the show and I turned him down. I told him I was better off touring myself. I went through the show more times than I would've on my own, and wrote more about it in the end than I probably would have, so in a way it was good -- meeting the artist there forced me to look harder -- but it made it challenging when I had to write a less than positive review. I think in this case the artist respected me for it, but that, it seems, is uncommon. I've had artists and dealers get mad at me for reviews I thought were very positive.

Of course I don't expect everyone to like me and there are some I honestly would prefer to have dislike me. Marion Goodman won't give me a show after my review of Richter, but then I don't want a show from her on that basis anyhow. Clearly we don't think alike.

My plan wasn't so much to meet people and somehow worm my way into their good graces as it was to meet people and find, naturally, some who I could be friends with. Artists and dealers with similar sensibilities. Not in some artificial schmoozing kind of way, but the way people meet friends all the time. Basically I wanted to immerse myself in the contemporary art world they way one would be immersed in an office or a neighborhood. Just be around, meeting people, see what sticks.

That's how I met Franklin, among others. Why I'm here on this blog. So it's working.

One day, when Franklin and WDB and John take over the world again, I'll be there.


Chris Rywalt

January 7, 2010, 12:19 PM

John: I know what you mean. I like to look, also. When I've gone through the SVA BFA and MFA open studios I always feel bad not stopping at each studio and looking it over because I was that artist one time, sitting there and wondering why no one slows down to see what I've got on the wall. I wish I could stop at every one and discuss the work, even the work I think is awful (and by god most of it is awful), because I've met very few people who aren't worth talking to for at least a few minutes (artists or otherwise).

I don't have time, though. No one could. It's just not possible. So I shouldn't feel bad, but I can't help it. I also wish I knew how to speak every language in the world. Let me pile up my sadnesses over here.

I figure most critiques fall into a few categories: The artist knows what you're saying is right, and has noticed it themselves; the artist thinks what you're saying is completely wrong; the artist knows what you're saying is right, but considers it as totally irrelevant; and finally, the artist thinks you're right and didn't know about it. That last one is insight, and it's very rare, but it's great when it happens.


Chris Rywalt

January 7, 2010, 12:23 PM

Sorry, that's Marian Goodman, not Marion. Marion is John Wayne.



January 7, 2010, 1:54 PM

I guess I'm just inhibited, and possibly my antiquity has something to do with it too, but also I think an artist will accept criticism from a fellow artist much more easily than from a fulltime critic like myself. Among other reasons, because the fellow artist will usually not be expected to translate his/her criticisms into print --so the looking becomes a cooperative endeavor rather than evaluation. But when an artist whom I don't know from Adam invites me to look at his/her work, the unspoken question hanging in the air usually is, will she write something about me, something nice enough so that I can show it around and use it to boost my career? They don't want critiques, they want praise, preferably in print.

It's different for artists with whom I've established a rapport -- in such cases, all they want me to do is look at their work & make intelligent conversation about it, maybe offer a few suggestions on how it can be improved -- and that I am always happy to do. Indeed, it's one of the high spots of what I do. But even there, I find I have to make rules for myself -- specifically, not to make a studio visit when I'm going to be shown work that is due to be exhibited in a gallery in the near future. Otherwise, what might happen is that the artist will incorporate any suggestions I might have into the work to be displayed. In that case, I won't be writing a review of somebody else's work, but of work that is at least partially my own -- which is obviously unacceptable.

There are usually some shows -- and sometimes a lot of shows -- that I look at but don't review. This is especially the case with bad art. I usually save my brickbats for the big names, figuring they're so damn successful that nothing I can say could possibly hurt them. With the little fellows, I usually figure a) that they've got enough troubles without me landing on them, and b)if they're Duchampians, they'll just take my drubbing as evidence that they're really daring and controversial, and run around saying, Look at me, how I've been attacked by the Modernist Establishment -- this proves I'm really the True Avant-Garde!



January 7, 2010, 2:16 PM

Chris, the piece in #34 is French (obviously), ca. 1770, by a now-forgotten artist who still managed to win the Prix de Rome (something like the Turner Prize of its day, or certainly a very big deal). It may well be a drawing of a sculpture, which it strongly suggests. The face probably corresponds more to a feminine ideal or type prevalent at the time, as opposed to a specific person. It's very much a Boucher or Greuze face. Its generalized or generic features, while pretty, lead the eye to focus on the fabrics framing the face, which are beautifully handled. And then, of course, there's the terrific simulation of a drawing by engraved means, since naturally photographic reproduction was out of the question.


Chris Rywalt

January 7, 2010, 2:21 PM

I'm freer for a number of reasons. For one thing I don't work for anyone -- I'm my own editor. Unfortunately the pay is lousy. I have no place at all in any establishment so I'm not constrained in how I approach things -- I don't represent anyone but myself. I can throw bricks at established artists or new ones. I tend to feel nicer towards newer artists (who are not always younger) if they're trying something real. Duchampians I have no time for. I tend only to see that kind of work by accident. I don't go out of my way to see shows I don't think I'll like -- the dreadful Paul McCarthy being an exception -- but I do wander into them when I'm roaming aimlessly, usually after I've seen what I meant to see. Sometimes I'm surprised and find good work I would've dismissed by description or reputation -- Chris Ofili and Eric Fischl are two big examples I can think of. Ofili isn't well thought of on this blog but I really liked his show a few years back.

As far as artist to artist, well, no artist I've spoken to seems to think of me that way. I'm not sure I qualify as an artist. I'm a guy with a studio who paints. Jerry Saltz used to paint (he may still for all I know) and of course Greenberg was a painter, too. I may end up shedding the painting side the way they did. It'd break my heart, but it could happen.


Tom Hering

January 7, 2010, 2:54 PM

Don't worry, Chris. If you are an artist, you always will be. I gave up on fine art for about thirty years, in order to find my real calling. Guess what I found. Even Duchamp couldn't help himself - he produced Étant donnés.



January 7, 2010, 4:52 PM

Chris, In my own column, I don't work for anybody either. I'm my own editor, too, and the pay is no better for me than it is for you. I contribute occasionally to artcritical, for which I am paid a paltry sum, but only if something I wrote appears, and not everything that I write does appear --- which is why I thank God I have my own column where I can say what I want. If you think I'm a member of the modernist establishment, you're talking about something that doesn't exist today, and in my opinion never did. Postmodernists like to fantasize that back in the '60s it ruled the art world, but I was there, back in the 60s, and at Greenberg's peak influence, only a very small number of curators & critics & galleries were "Greenbergian" & most of the market & most of the media was dominated by all the species of art that Greenberg considered middle-brow substitutes for the avant-garde: pop, op, kinetic, minimal, conceptual, etc.



January 7, 2010, 5:00 PM

PS. Chris, I guess you didn't get it when I referred to "the Modernist Establishment" in my caricature of how Duchampians respond to negative criticism. That was a joke, a rather bitter one in fact.



January 7, 2010, 5:43 PM

Piri, I propose you drop "Duchampians" and replace it with "Du-chumps."



January 7, 2010, 6:27 PM

Oh, and Chris, very few people have heard of crayon-manner engraving except for distinctly atypical types like me. In other words, for practical purposes, hardly anybody. It's related, by the way, to stipple engraving, all of it developed in the 18th century, initially in France.


Chris Rywalt

January 7, 2010, 8:35 PM

I didn't take it that seriously, Piri. But even I've had people comment on my blog saying, basically, of course I didn't like whatever it was, it's avant garde and I'm old and dumb. So, yeah, you review it negatively and it's worn as a badge of pride by some people.


Chris Rywalt

January 7, 2010, 8:38 PM

Speaking of the Establishment, on the subway today I saw someone reading The New Criterion. That reminded me I wanted to find it, but three newsstands later and nothing.

I was going to buy the New Yorker instead, but it's six bucks. Then I was going to get the New York Times for the crossword, but I didn't have a pen and the newsstand wanted 75 cents for one.

Someone left a copy on the bus, though.



January 7, 2010, 11:58 PM

Chris, is ol' Will pandering to the flyover states on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday with those puzzles? Or is he pandering to the coasts? Man, I get tired of waiting for the weekends for the goods.


Chris Rywalt

January 8, 2010, 8:19 AM

There are moments in the crossword where I feel it's very New York-centric, and there are times when I think it's asking too much pop culture (like Hollywood). I don't know. I haven't done the puzzle in a long time and I'm only occasionally picking it up now, since I found the library a town over makes copies and leaves them out for people to take.

I've been feeling stupider and stupider lately -- over the past year for sure, maybe two -- to the extent that I actually saw not one but two neurologists about it. The first gave me a battery of tests showing that I'm very intelligent, thank you very much, but I knew that. I just feel stupider than I used to, not actually stupid.

So feeling stupid I picked up the Sunday Times puzzle while my kids were working on school projects -- Aaron Burr! -- and managed to finish it. Ten years ago when I was doing the puzzle every day I couldn't finish a Sunday (or a Friday or Saturday, for that matter, and Thursday could be a stretch). Then I found a copy of the previous Sunday puzzle and finished that one, too.

Proof that the New York Times crossword is easier than it used to be.

The next puzzle I got was a Thursday, a few days later, and I found I couldn't get a single clue. Not one. Completely empty puzzle. I gnawed at it for a few hours, too. Nothing.

Now I'm back on track. Last night I nearly finished yesterday's crossword. Not quite. I'm not sure I can get any more, though. Bastards made this one with extra letters on some of the answers. Yes. Superfluous letters in a crossword. What's the world coming to?



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