Archive for October, 2012

The Not Sublime…Daniel Brush

October 25, 2012

A few weeks ago I was completely irritated and out of sorts because of the NY Times article about the artist Wade Guyton, and just when I had calmed down I read the next cover story, about artist Daniel Brush. Unlike Guyton Mr. Brush has skills. He has a vision, he spends time on each piece he makes and he has been making art for more than forty years. So, what's my beef?
Mr. Brush does not have a dealer. Okay, I can live with that.
Mr. Brush does not go to openings or parties for other artists. Okay, he seems like a curmudgeon, but what do I care?
Mr. Brush barely leaves his huge loft, according to the Times, for months or even years. About now I am beginning to get that needle in my brain that says…so, who is buying the groceries? Who is taking out the trash, feeding the guy (there is a photo of him. He is not starving. He looks like Walter from Fringe)?
And this is the paragraph that pushed me from puzzled to potential serial killer…
…after a one man show at the Phillips Collection (at 23 years old for God's sake!!!), he found himself selling lots of work, but his popularity didn't sit well with him. (After that sentence, and before the next round of what Mr Brush did the article mentions his "wife and one man support system, Olivia who doesn't seem to have a last name).
He says "I was so unnerved that I bought back every single thing from every person and destroyed all the work". Sweet. First of all, I don't believe it. He bought back every single thing? There wasn't one angry customer who didn't say "screw you, you nut job. Go get a therapist…I am keeping my painting!". And recently, when one of the world's most prestigious museums (which he won't name) wanted to acquire his work, he refused to sell it to them.
BUT, he has graciously allowed a sweeping exhibit of his work at the Museum of Arts and Design.
How kind of him.
I'm sure it's just great. I bet I would like this work. He has roots in jewelry, just like me, and does a lot with careful obsessive ink line drawings, just like me (only better, I assume).
The curators who put on this show "praised the technical mastery of Mr. Brush, who buys, melts and granulates his own gold".
Let me explain something. Buying your own gold (which is what gold is…your own, after the purchase. That is true of anything you buy. Cereal, toilet paper, pants…you get the picture.) is what every jeweler who works in gold does. Same for melting it. Buying and melting are fairly easy to do. Especially when you clearly have the money to buy your own pricey work and then destroy it. Granulation is tricky, but Mr. Brush is not the only person who can do it. I HAVE DONE GRANULATION!!!!! Okay? I mean, I am not great at it. But it is a skill, not some sort of wizardry. The master jeweler John Paul Miller of the Cleveland Institute of Art taught himself granulation, when no one was doing it. It had become a lost art. Mr. Brush probably learned it from Mr. Miller because, coincidentally Mr. Brush grew up in…wait for it…Cleveland! Anyway, it is hard, but not impossible.
Mr. Brush has devoted followers who keep him afloat. It makes him seem like he is struggling to survive and would perish if not for these generous souls, like Oliver Sacks and Marsha, the ex-wife of Robin Williams. (I wonder if Marsha was the babysitter Robin ran off with, or if this was the wife he had when he ran off with the babysitter).
Who are these people? This guy has a wife that completely takes care of him so he can make his specialty items for his short list of approved collectors . The Times says he is warm and has a sense of humour. Nice. Glad to know it. I'd like him better if he did the dishes and ran the vacuum every now and then.
Through the article to the very end there are tidbits about Mr. Brush and his very unique habits, his skills, his special followers (only about a dozen people are allowed to buy his work.).
Somehow he managed to find time to use his penis because they have a son who he probably never saw because he was too busy hiding in his loft making art objects. And somehow even though he made and destroyed things for a decade someone said "hey! Let's make a book of this guy's work!" and so Abrams published a book of his work.
His advice to young artists who want to make good work (as opposed to the young and old artists who want to make lousy work), "Stay inside".
and oh…if you want to follow that path, make sure you can find a good woman to completely support you financially and emotionally plus round up a few rabid collectors, a publishing company and a museum. Simple.
And that is why this article made me angry.

The Ridiculous. . .Wade Guyton

October 24, 2012

Twice in two weeks I opened the Sunday Arts & Leisure section in the NY Times to read about art, and twice there were articles that irritated me so much that I was compelled to rant about them to my husband for as long as he would let me. And then some more. In both cases the artists have nothing in common (except what most successful artists have, which is a penis). I have to be so careful to articulate why the article about Guyton so bothered me. I meant to save it so that I could quote it accurately, but it ended up in the recycle bin.

Mr Guyton’s exhibit features work he made from taking a small printed piece of paper using an old ink jet printer. I am not bothered by his use of technology to make what he and the museum call art. I was annoyed to the point of hysteria at the little snippets of biography inserted throughout the article. Such as…he found drawing to be hard, too hard so when he was young he had his dad do his homework if it required visuals. (That’s fine…I do that for my son Noah). Why then does he want to choose art as a way to make a living, as a way to communicate?
He says he is not especially good at technology either. He comes off as the surfer dude of the art world. He is completely dismissive of the papers he uses for his mammoth wall pieces. He called one end paper insignificant … that is until he masterfully turned it into a dinosaur sized piece of wall paper.

Here’s the point. Artists can’t have it both ways. We can’t be angry when people think and publicly state that “everyone is creative”,or “anyone can do that”, but smile and coo when someone who clearly has no particular ability to render anything, nor the patience to try, is feted by the art world. Either you need talent or you don’t.
It always annoys me when a child, lawyer, actor, elephant, dog, cat, creates something on canvas or paper or some sort of visual art that fetches tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am not jealous. Their success has nothing to do with mine. But it is the idea that anyone can do what I do. Yet not anyone can be a doctor, lawyer, musician, ballet dancer.
Anyone who knows me knows I like a wide array of visual art. I enjoy conventional works, video, installations, realism, abstract works in every media. I made my own piece copying Ulysses on to rubber gloves for God’s sake. Maybe I’ll even like the work of Mr. Guyton. But be careful artists…if you give permission to someone to make work from stolen work, to create something supposedly original by blowing it up to gargantuan proportion even though it was dismissed in its original state, you have to accept a roll of the eyes from the public when a young guy who can’t draw is having a retrospective at a museum in NY that charges around $20.00 a pop for admission.
And Mr Guyton, please come up with a better story about what it is that drives you.