December 19, 2009

A Serious Masterpiece

December 18, 2009

Tonight we went to see the Coen Brothers’ latest movie, “A Serious Man“.  This is movie-making as fine art.  Neither Hitchcock nor Fellini nor Welles could have done better.  And none of them could have managed it in a comedy.

I haven’t seen “Avatar” but I know in advance that it a movie by and about technology.  “A Serious Man” on the other hand is about the acting, the writing, the direction, the editing, the depiction in style and content of a remembered age and social milieu.  “A Serious Man” is just about perfect on all those levels.

Go see it while you still can.

A Wonderful Surprise

December 12, 2009

Lina Delano is an odd bird.  In her late 80s now, she has been a colourful character on the Drive for many years.  I used to see her in Bukowski’s Bar when that watering hole was at its busiest back at the end of the 1990s.  But mostly I knew her as the grumpy old woman who scrapped other people’s posters off street lamps.   This was serious business for Lina and she kept up her cleaning work for hour upon hour, unimpressed with any interuptions, a cigarette dangling.

Once, late at night, feeling powerful from my poetry performance at Bukowski’s, I saw Lina scrapping away at some band’s poster.  After a moment’s hesitation, I approached her and asked — pleasantly enough, I thought — why she was doing what she was doing.  She spun around and, brandishing the little scraper, roared at me in a voice that could be heard blocks away: “Fuck off!  Fuck off!”  My relationship with Lina has never really developed beyond that point, although my wife has a chatting relationship with her whenever they meet.

I haven’t seen Lina on the Drive for quite a while; and I had never known what she did beside scrapping posters.  It was a surprise to me, therefore, to learn that she was an artist, having shared a studio for many years with her sister Dita Arntzen, and that Havana Gallery was holding a show of the sisters’ work.  I saw that show today.  It was, by a country mile, the best show I have ever seen at Havana.

Lina’s work consists in assemblages of wood, furniture parts, doll’s heads, beads, small items.  They are large and bold pieces that strike the eye first and the brain soon after.  They are beautiful objects.  Her sister created interesting and attractive collages.  I can’t find any images to share and can only urge you to rush to Havana Gallery on Commercial before the show ends on the 19th.

A small book of Lina’s works printed to coincide with this exhibition included a picture of the artists at a show of her work in New York back in 1966.  She was a striking looking woman then, and she has retained a deal of that power to this day.  As I mentioned above, I haven’t seen Lina for a while.  I sure hope I get to see her again soon to congratulate her on these wonderful works of art.

The Turner Prize 2009

December 7, 2009

And the winner of the Turner Prize for 2009 is … Richard Wright!

Fearful symmetry … Richard Wright’s gold-leaf painting at Tate Britain ‘taps into Blakean mysteries’. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Published this morning before the announcement, the Guardian’s art critic Adrian Searle has an excellent 8 minute video summarizing the work of the four finalists.  It is well worth watching.  Unfortunately, I cannot figure out how to embed it, so here is the link.

Oh, the Arrogance!

December 7, 2009

The always interesting Art Review has published the following story:

After an unpleasant fall-out with the University of Edinburgh, prominent Scottish artist Douglas Gordon has vowed never to accept a public commission in Scotland again, reports the Independent.  Gordon was to create a site-specific work for the redevelopment of the library at the University of Edinburgh, which opened this Autumn. The artist proposed to inscribe the words “Every time you turn a page, it dies a little” in gold lettering on the walls, but the words were felt to be too negative for the library and the artist pulled out, partly in response to his treatment by the institution …  “Many artists are treated disrespectfully by the institutions they are making commissions for,” he said. “Most think they cannot afford to say no, but I can, so I had to.” Gordon said … he was “humiliated”, and would “never again accept a public commission in my home country”.

I believe entirely in artistic freedom.  But I happen to believe that artistic freedom includes the right of a commissioning institution to say that an artist’s proposal is unsuitable for the particular site or use.  Douglas Gordon obviously disagrees.  His loud-mouthed petulance does artists in general a disservice and gives us all a bad name.

Water Lily 2

December 6, 2009

What Recession?

December 2, 2009

This baby is the 2011 Bentley Mulsanne, with a list price of $285,000 (not including taxes and delivery).  I would be happy to pick one up when I’m next out shopping but there are so many choices to make — 114 paint colors to choose from, 21 carpet colors, nine wood veneers and 24 leather hides — that it hurts my head.  I’ll just stick to that red and white 96-seater bus I’m used to.