Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Champions Take the Cake

Is there a theme here? Well, lessee. This blog is about art, art that I like, art that I take pictures of (or find pictures of as the case may be), and especially big art - that follows because I like big art. The theme(s) so far.

And then there is Vonnegut. I have been re-reading Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. Champions take the cake, of course, win the prize, are favorites primed to please.

Breakfast of Champions is a wry wacky work with drawings. It stars the great Kilgore Trout, consumate pessimist, but still the book gave me a certain hopeful perspective on the mess of things that is humanity. In this way:

Dwayne was hoping that some of the distinguished visitors to the Arts Festival, who were staying at the Inn, would come to the cocktail lounge. He wanted to talk to them, if he could, to discover whether they had truths about life which he had never heard before. Here is what he hoped new truths might do for him: enable him to laugh at his troubles, to go on living, and to keep out of the North Wing of the Midland County General Hospital, which was for lunatics.

Poor Dwayne mishears the truth and ends badly... but still, Dwayne looked to art for truth and sanity. Me too.

My motto is: Art Saves.

So far, I am not insane, off my rocker, loony toons, nor vicious. Wacky wingnut...well, why yes, that I am.

To enourage you to ingest your Breakfast of Champions, I offer these bits, my favorites.

"Americans are always afraid of coming home," said Karabekian, "with good reason, I may say."
"They used to have good reason, " said Beatrice, "but not any more. The past has been rendered harmless. I would tell any wandering American now, 'Of course you can go home again, and as often as you please. It's just a motel.'"

The girl with the greyhound was an assistant lighting director for a musical comedy about American history, and she kept her poor greyhound, who was named Lancer, in a one-room apartment fourteen feet wide and twenty-six feet long, and six flights above street level. His entire life was devoted to unloading his excrement at the proper time and place. There were two proper places to put it; in the gutter outside the door seventy-two steps below, with traffic whizzing by, or in a roasting pan his mistress kept in front of the refrigerator. Lancer had a very small brain, but he must have suspected from time to time, just as Wayne Hoobler did, that some kind of terrible mistake had been made.


And when [the chemist] sketched a plausible molecule, he indicated points where it would go on and on just as I have indicated them - with an abbreviation which means sameness without end.
The proper ending for any story about people it seems to me, since life is now a polymer in which the Earth is wrapped so tightly, should be that same abbreviation, which I now write large because I feel like it, which is this one: ETC.
And it is in order to acknowledge the continuity of this polymer that I begin so many sentences with "And," and "So" and end so many paragraphs with "... and so on."
And so on.
"It's all like an ocean!" cried Dostoevski. I say it's all like cellophane.

Hail Kurt Vonnegut. May he enjoy cakes, ale, peace, etc. forever.

Friday, June 22, 2007

di Suvero

In San Francisco there is also di Suvero.
This is not meant as a travel guide - I am just saying: In San Francisco there is also di Suvero. And like Richard Serra, his work is worth making pilgrimage to see. If not to big art, then to big trees. And mountains. For now I recommend making way to the waterfront and gazing upwards at the di Suvero planted there where he and his family first landed refugees from China. The wrapped ship shape wobbles slightly as if on unseen waves, and above a compass-like turns round the anchoring four legs extending down to the earth - or conversly lifting the rotating complex high.
Like Serra, di Suvero grew up around the shipyards and got the notion that men could make big things. Di Suvero's story is amazing. For though he made big things - out of huge planks of wood initially - he was crushed in an elevator accident and thereafter made huge things from a wheelchair, single-handedly, from a wheelchair. Leverage, he says, is what it takes. It is something else besides.

The piece on the Embarcadero is somewhat pressed by the stadium and street nearby. But in Venice (CA) the di Suvero on the beach has the air and space to breathe and soar. It is a delicious angular construction of enormous i-beams that lifts you up and out of the small human busyness of the boardwalk. I love it, pointedly above the small knolls of lawn, the palms, the sand and sea beyond. It is grand to stand in and under and near, and on this stretch of public space you can get space and get close.

This last, the just-so image for the Solstice. Amen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Go See Serra Pt 2: Serratopia

The Richard Serra retrospective in NYC. John Perreault went to see it. The next best thing to being there.

Who is John Perreault? Art critic, curator, artist, poet, collector of books and ... dishware. On the scene since the mid-60s, writing erudite, clear-headed essays and reviews. He provides consistently intelligent insight into the various strands that make up the arts, exemplary of why arts critique is valuable, necessary. I am a fan. For freedom's sake he writes an art blog, Artopia, where he writes what he wants to write. This entry is about Richard Serra - the massive materiality of his works filling the new MoMA.Artopia

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Not Vivienne

Wouldn't it be something if Richard Serra's wife were named Vivienne? I mean just in keeping with things here. In this little world of my opinions? But no. His wife is Clara. Nice name Clara. But not Vivienne. Vivian neither.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Go See Richard Serra

Since returning to San Francisco I had it on my list to go see the Richard Serra at the Gap Headquarters building on the Embarcadero. But first the new Richard Serra at the new UCSF medical campus was unveiled. Quietly. Last time, it seems, there was an uproar about a Richard Serra being installed in a public space in San Francisco, so this time they just did it without a lot of fan fare. (Who are these people complaining?) Now there's Richard Serra on TV (with Charlie Rose last night), Richard Serra at MoMA (see above, by Fred Conrad for NYTimes).
Richard Serra Richard Serra Richard Serra. Well, if I were Matthew Barney I'd have Richard Serra in my movie too.

Richard Serra takes the cake.

Last night when Charlie Rose tried to impress as an insightful instigator of the profound, Richard Serra held his ground and firmly impressed. The man is articulate and sure, and for the first time I really saw how a person's work is an emmanation out of their character. This man is as large and profound as his works. He is virtuous.

"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" (Twelfth Night)

There's virtue and ... virtue. Morality (no, I don't mean that) and power (yes, that) and quality. Virtue is the Te of the Tao (as in Tao Te Ching which means The Book (Ching) of the Way (Tao) and its Virtue (Te).) Virtue is quality - and character. The more one is centered and grounded in the Tao, in the natural particular way of oneself, the more sure and clear ones virtue (essence) appears. Serra's work is a tangible material manifestation of the quality of the man. Serra's work is powerful.

Serra in San Francisco

This piece is tall. Two tall flat steel panels situated in a quad by a dormatory in the flat campus by the bay. The panels are slightly, whimsically tilted. They are massive. Standing next to them they are like redwoods. Up. And then there is that tilt. Tilt. 2 -3 inches thick. Stately. Tall. Very simple, and surprizing how two panels so can cut and shape the air that is in that vast space above the ground between big buildings. Amazing they don't fall over. Tilt and awe.

Charlie Brown is the piece inside the Gap Headquarters. (When it was being built, Charles Schultz died, so Serra named it after his character. Art trivia.) Four tall panels gently folded inward at the top leaning shoulder to shoulder creating a hollow space that sound travels up into an extended reverb out the top. (Yes, look, it's true: steel can be gently folded.) It stands inside a courtyard four stories high. Cozy.
(I took the first pic just before the guard ran over and told me No Photos! So I nabbed the top-down pic from www.scultura-italiana.com.)

Serra in Berlin

While I'm at it I might as well reminisce about finding a lonely Serra in Berlin - beside the golden Berliner Philharmonie, but now situated in a driveway - so it's aptly named Berlin Junction but looks somehow like a traffic obstruction. Two panels laid horizontally and curving into one another, the ends sweeping into the sky and echoing the lines of the concert hall.

(Pic from www.scultura-italiana.com.)

I like Richard Serras. If I were in NYC now, I'd go see the retrospective. Go rub up against a big piece of steel. Works for me.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

More Viva

My stylin stylist tells me he had a dance partner named Vivian. Wore a little twirling skirt. This said after we'd sat together and looked through the Vivienne Westwood catalog. Fabulous Viv in green satin, her man in lace. Vivienne the queen. We'd both been to the retrospective at the de Young (museum) and loved her cut-up, deconstructed, mixed and mashed, accentuated fabric creations that said big n loud n proud to be towering tall in high purple platforms - beautiful. (This is an art blog after all.) (Oh, didn't I mention that?) But that reminds me - there's another VivVivaciousVivienne Soto, she's the beauty queen. Vivienne Soto. She does the cakewalk but Vivienne Westwood takes the cake.

Friday, June 1, 2007


Isn't Vivian a wonderful name? Sounds like vivacious. Vivienne Westwood. Vivian Gornick. I wonder if I would have been different with Vivian as my name. Vivienne. (yes) I wonder what it would be like. Be vivacious.