Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Work

The Coyote Lakes Overnight Stakes, 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 36."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Heartbreak and Emptiness

Eric Dolphy, "245," 1961

Here's a great 1961 clip of Dolphy from "Jazz Casual" (Thanks, Dan!). I can't figure out who anyone in the band is, though, can anyone fill me in?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Paulie's Picks, Aqueduct, 11/3/07

The crisp November chill and the orange and red leaves which are beginning to drift past my window can only mean one thing: time to head out to The Big A!

Here are Paulie's picks for tomorrow's Aqueduct card:

Race 1:
4 - R Clear Victory
5 - Gold Trippi
2 - Bankbusted

Race 2:
4 - Seven Halo's
6 - Squeeze Now
1 - Dinner Guest

Race 3:
6 - Wise Mountain
4 - Good Law
3 - Prince Dubai

Race 4:
2 - Hyrule
8 - He Struck It Rich
2b - Caravel

Race 5:
6 - Visionary
5 - Explosive Count
2 - Triplethepleasure

Race 6:
7 - Carson Hall
1 - Overheated
1x - Cloud Nine

Race 7:
2 - Royal Highness
6 - Dalvina
5 - Rising Cross

Race 8:
5 - Zipperoo
4 - Smash 'Em Sammy
9 - Five Towns

Race 9:
8 - Logic Way
7 - Stepaside
11 - North Country

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 13

Theodore Gericault, The Raft of the Medusa, 1819. Oil on canvas, 16' 1" x 23' 6."

The Raft of the Medusa was completed by Gericault in 1819 after a year of exhaustive studies and research on the subject, and caused quite a sensation in the 1819 Salon. The massive canvas is based on an incident that was widely publicized (a new concept at the time: basing a painting on current events); a shipwreck after which the survivors floated on bits of the wreckage for over two weeks, eventually resorting to cannibalism to survive. The picture depicts the moment when the haggard sailors spot the Argus on the horizon, the ship that would rescue them a few hours later. There was a strong political aspect to the subject, because the captain of the doomed Medusa was an incompetent sailor, but a suitable anti-Bonapartist who received his naval commission for purely political reasons (sound familiar?).

As I mentioned in an earlier installment of "Paintings I Like," my two favorite pictures in the Louvre were this one and Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus. They're very different stylistically; the Delacroix uses a much looser brush stroke which predicts Impressionism and looks back on late-career Titian. The Gericault is painted with a stroke and modeling that was much more in keeping with the Neo-Classicists of the day (Ingres, David), but the lighting, composition, and the completely over-the-top drama place both paintings squarely in the Romantic era.

And it's this drama that I want to talk about. I recently read a paper that Michael Fried gave at Michigan University in 2001 as part of the Tanner Lecture Series about the formalist critic Roger Fry, who was one of the seminal figures in the development of purely formal criticism and aesthetics. As Fried points out, Fry insisted in his mature writing that subject matter was largely a matter of indifference to most painters (good ones, anyway), and that the emotional content in painting flowed out of the relationships of forms and colors. This hard-line formalist view left him with some explaining to do about his earlier writing, particularly his important 1901 paper on Giotto. In the essay, Fry talks of about the "chords of feeling" Giotto struck in the frescoes at the Arena Chapel in Padua:

"It is true that in speaking of these one is led inevitably to talk of elements in the work which modern criticism is apt to regard as lying outside the domain of pictorial art. It is customary to dismiss all that concerns the dramatic presentation of the subject as literature or illustration, which is to be sharply distinguished from the qualities of design. But can this clear distinction be drawn in fact? The imaginings of a playwright, a dramatic poet, and a dramatic painter have much in common, but they are never at any point identical. Let us suppose a story to be treated by all three: to each, as he dwells on the legend, the imagination will present a succession of images, but those images, even at their first formation, will be quite different in each case, they will be conditioned and coloured by the art which the creator practises, by his past observation of nature with a view to presentment in that particular art. The painter, like Giotto, therefore, actually imagines in terms of figures capable of pictorial presentment, he does not merely translate a poetically dramatic vision into pictorial terms."

When this essay was anthologized nearly 20 years later in Vision and Design, Fry adds a footnote which in large measure recants the preceding passage:

"I should be inclined to disagree wherever in this article there appears the assumption not only that the dramatic idea may have inspired the artist to the creation of his form, but that the value of the form for us is bound up with recognition of the dramatic idea. It now seems to me possible by a more searching analysis of our experience in front of a work of art to disentangle our reaction to pure form from our reaction to its implied associated ideas."

Fried uses this tension to advance ideas from his book Absorption and Theatricality (not uninteresting), but I think that Fry simply came across a fundamental problem in formalist criticism of pre-Impressionist painting - it's very nearly impossible to divorce narrative and psychology (and the resulting drama) from a picture that contains people. And this led Fry to another implicit conclusion: that if an artist's formal achievement were unable to overwhelm and eventually nullify the subject matter, then the work was pandering and rhetorical.

In writing about El Greco's The Agony in the Garden, Fry conjectures that "The artist, whose concern is ultimately and, I believe, exclusively with form, will no doubt be so carried away by the intensity and completeness of the design, that he will never even notice the melodramatic and sentimental content which shocks or delights the ordinary man." He contrasts this complete rapture and dedication with the work of Bernini, which, while equally ground-breaking in form as El Greco, is in Fry's opinion deeply compromised by Bernini's desire to be famous, which led him to the exploitation of devices which simply pandered to the tastes of popes and the crowd.

Back to the Gericault, which (like the Delacroix) is as sweeping and dramatic as any big-budget Hollywood period picture. Does this desire to make a painting that would appeal to the unwashed masses for completely extra-aesthetic reasons somehow discredit or diminish Gericault's achievement (in the same way that Fry discredits Bernini)? Obviously, I believe the short answer is no.

The somewhat longer answer is that Gericault's understanding of Venetian painting (witness the misty sea-air in the picture) and the Baroque (witness the Caravaggio-esque lighting), together with his easy command of heroic scale undeniably place him in the company of "real" masters, as opposed to those maligned panderers to which Fry refers. For an example of the latter, look at the meticulously crafted soft-porn of Bouguereau, a 19th century painter who enjoyed tremendous success in his own lifetime.

The Gericault is very nearly overwhelming as painting in the formal sense, but I would be lying if I told you that I found no appeal in the drama and subject. And I find no contradiction in this. This may seem like an unecessarily long way of saying that form and content are married seamlessly in the Gericault, and now that formalism is generally held in such low esteem, my argument may seem like a retro curiosity. But I have a larger point I'm sidling up to.

Formalism ultimately faltered under the weight of its demands for purity and distillation. Around the middle of the 20th century, some brilliant formal observations about paintings from the past became cumbersome demands for paintings yet to be made. Some dazzling work was completed during the swansong of this particular quest, but the ultimate conclusion (stated by Greenberg himself) was that the perfectly aesthetic, non-referential picture was not a possibility - everything refers to something.

I would like to see painting that is primarily visual make a big return to the spotlight in contemporary art, and I don't believe that absolute purity is necessary, or even desirable, to achieve that end (think of Matisse). It's important to remember that the opposite of a wrong is not necessarily a right. If a painting that espouses entertainment in the most naked sense is clearly moving in the wrong direction (it is), it does not follow that a painting which displays none of those qualities is the correct prescription. The Gericault sacrifices few of its credentials as painting in the pursuit of drama, and the ambitious modern abstract painter might want to take a minute to consider the implications of this.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Jockey Club Gold Cup, Belmont, 9/30/07

My new career as a college professor has for the time being put everything else, including this blog, on the back burner. But I did manage to sneak out to Belmont this past weekend, and Curlin's gutsy stretch run completed a very respectable Pick Four for old Professor Paulie - making it the first time in what seems like quite a while that I left the track with more money than I arrived with.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Happy Birthday Trane

The heavyweight champ would have been 81 years old today.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Belmont Results, 9/8/07: The Green Flunkey

Hey, look, third place isn't so bad. You generally get 10% of the purse for show - $5200 in this case. The Green Monkey only needs 3,076 similar finishes and he's completely paid for. Of course, that would mean he'd have to race every day for the next 8 years or so, but maybe he could go around twice a day on weekends.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Paulie's Picks, Belmont, 9/15/07

I'm still sore about last week. First, I picked five winners which paid a grand total of $35.40. If I had simply bet an equal amount to win on all my picks for the card, it would have represented a profit of 77%! I got too cute (as I always do) with exactas, trifectas, Pick 3's and so on. The thing is, I haven't learned my lesson and plan to make similar plays tomorrow. And the other thing about last week that I'm still sore about is the fact that my wife narrowly missed a Pick 6 worth $53,000-and-change.

I was going to take this weekend off but there are two races of note. The 9th race is the G1 Gazelle for three-year-old fillies, and the sensational Rags to Riches is making her first start since beating the boys in the Belmont Stakes on June 9th. She's only the third girl to win the Belmont in it's entire 139 year history - the last was Tanya in 1905, and the one before that was Ruthless in the very first running of the race in 1867.

The 4th race is a maiden-special that features the long-awaited debut of the most expensive untested racehorse in history. John Magnier of Coolmore Stud paid $16,000,000 for The Green Monkey at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Calder selected sale. And in the year-and-half since then, the colt has logged no races and a handful or workouts, constantly returning to the bench with minor physical ailments. The Green Monkey's connections have chosen a pretty soft bunch for their horse's debut - I imagine it would be pretty embarrassing for a lot of ego-driven rich people if their solid gold pony comes in last (or even 2nd).

On with the show; here are Professor Paulie's picks for tomorrow's Belmont card:

1st race:
2 - Las Presse
4 - Jibboom
5 - Genuine Devotion

2nd race:
4 - Hedgefund Investor
3 - Commandeered
5 - Devereux

3rd race:
3 - Americanus
9 - Spirit of Gulch
4 - Executive Search

4th race
4 - The Green Monkey
3 - Roi Maudit
5 - Holla Bend

5th race:
7 - Metro Meteor
4 - Fez
1 - Mascot

6th race, The Matron (G2):
3 - Proud Spell
2 - Syriana's Song
6 - Armonk

7th race, The Noble Damsel Handicap (G3):
3 - Silver Charades
8 - Fantastic Shirl
10 - Pommes Frites

8th race, The Futurity (G2):
6 - Kodiak Kowboy
4 - The Leopard
3 - Tale of Ekati

9th race, The Gazelle (G1):
5 - Rags to Riches
1 - Lear's Princess
3 - Tough Tiz's Sis

10th race:
7 - Lightning Larry
6 - Gone Prospecting
4 - Secret Stocks

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Belmont Results, 9/8/07: A Brush With Riches

My wife took a flier on a Pick 6 today; an $8 dollar ticket which had two horses covered in races 5 and 6, and single-horse coverage in races 7 through 10, which is pretty close to naked in terms of playing this particular wager. Well, when Doctor Dino scored in race 9th race, we all looked at Joy's ticket in amazement - she had gotten through 5 races, and was one race away from what is usually the biggest jackpot on the wagering menu.

After the penultimate race in the sequence, the payouts for a winning Pick 6 ticket are flashed on the monitor. If Really Rollicking were to come home in the 10th race, Joy would have won - get ready for it - a little more than $53,000.

My Man Lars, the favorite in the 10th, spoiled the party, and my much-better-half collected the 5-correct consolation prize of $102.

And what about Professor Paulie? If you look at today's results and compare them to Paulie's Picks, you'll see that that I picked five winners, plus the correct exacta in races 1 and 2. How I came out $66 in the red is anybody's guess, but seems to suggest that Professor Paulie is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. Don't tell my students - ok?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Paulie's Picks, Belmont, 9/8/07

Here it is, September already, and Belmont is open for the fall meeting. Now that I'm a college professor, I feel sure that I can bring a level of insight and sophistication to my handicapping that I was unable to achieve while I was simply a struggling artist.

With this in mind, here are Professor Paulie's picks for tomorrow's very competitive card:

1st race:
2: Run Red Run
5: Tight Grip
1: Mister Fusaichi

2nd race:
7: Anakim
1a: Cool Coal Man
6: Legacy Thief

3rd race:
7: Treasure Mountain
2b: Saratoga Kaz
4: Front Money

4th race:
9: Si O No
5: Noah A.
6: Gigli

5th race:
8: Vivacious Vivian
4: Delta Weekend
3: Show 'Em All

6th race:
8: Defrereoftheheart
5: Winaway
9: Love Abroad

7th race, The Garden City (G1):
7: Alexander Tango
10: Rutherienne
6: Valbenny

8th race, The Ruffian Handicap (G1):
2: Ginger Punch
4: Take D' Tour
3: Miss Shop

9th race, The Man O' War (G1):
7: Yellowstone
5: Shamdinan
1: Doctor Dino

10th race:
3: Really Rollicking
11: My Man Lars
6: Brazos

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Hi, It's Me

Ho Hassle at the Castle is still a living entity despite the lack of activity lately, and Paulie is still a painter, horseplayer, jazz musician and fan, commie, and lover of samurai films. But in recent weeks all of those things have taken a back seat to preparation for my new job as a college professor. My first day was today, and I addressed two classes of freshman who were not quite born when I moved to New York City. Where does the time go?

I'm hoping to get back to work on painting in a serious way now that my course plan is basically laid out, and lest we not forget that Belmont reopens this Friday (don't tell my students about this - ok?).

I read a film review in today's times about an avant-jazz musician, and how he struggles to make ends meet while maintaining an uncompromising dedication to dissonant music. I identified with this in a real way: I played "out" jazz for number of years and ran my own micro record label - I know about the heartaches attached to this particular endeavor. I also identified with it in a more general sense: I've always put art-making ahead of money-making. I guess I've been pretty lucky, though; some years were definitely fatter than others, but I've never missed the rent, and there was always a little left to blow at the track.

Anyway, some new work, which I've been promising to unveil for most of this year, will hopefully begin popping up on No Hassle this fall, so stay tuned.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Better Offer

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the principle architect of the Bush administration's torture policy, resigned just as Charles Taylor dismissed the lawyer appointed to defend the former Liberian dictator in his upcoming trial for war crimes.

Gonzales has denied any interest in defending Taylor, but sources close to the Attorney General claim that in recent weeks he has bemoaned the "relentless persecution" of "strong-willed, patriotic leaders" both "domestically and abroad; like in western Africa, for example."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

2007 Travers Stakes, Saratoga, 8/25

This race was supposed to be a cakewalk for Street Sense, since his three main rivals in the three-year-old division (Rags to Riches, Curlin, and Hard Spun) didn't run. But a complete upstart named Grasshopper really tested him in the stretch. Grasshopper is pretty high up on my list of horses to watch for the rest of '07 and into '08.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Max Roach, 1924-2007

I'm of the mind that America's greatest contributions to the history of art came in the years following WWII; in painting and in jazz.

Max Roach is on the very short list of musicians who not only played jazz at the highest level, but also originated and developed the vocabulary associated with be-bop. We lost a real giant today, one of the greatest American artists of the last century.

Here's his obit in the Times.

A Quagmire, You Say?

Last night John Stewart played this interview with Cheney from way back in 1994, talking about the reasons that the first Bush administration decided not to invade and occupy Baghdad. I know this has been making the rounds on the internet since the run-up to the war, but it still amazes me to read it - most of what he predicted came true or is in the process of coming true. The really ironic part is that the kind of destabilization caused by toppling Saddam is the reason that the U.S. government has supported and maintained so many hideous dictators in the past - stability was always preferred to democracy. Anyway, here it is straight from the horse's mouth:

"[...]if we'd gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.

Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.

It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.

The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families -- it wasn't a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?

Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 12

Barnett Newman, Vir Heroicus Sublimus, 1950-51. Oil on canvas, 7' 11" x 17' 9."

Those Ab Ex rooms at MoMA still knock me out, and I know this makes me a fuddy-duddy (at least in some circles). The variety that Newman gets out of his stripped-down vocabulary is really something; that white stripe stands way out front and moves as fast as a bolt of lightning, and the darker ones lurk around in an indeterminate relation to the picture plane, turning the whole red ground into a kind of semi-transparent haze.

As with most Ab Ex pictures, the scale really provides the grandeur. The best pictures of the genre have the same kind of presence as big natural things, like mountains or rainstorms, without having to depict those kinds of things at all. This painting is, for me, a kind of heroic landscape, analogous to the best Hudson Rivers paintings and certain Turners.

Newman was a lover of the dramatic (the title is Latin for "Man, Heroic and Sublime"), and bristled at any formal readings of his pictures; he insisted they were about life, death, creation, agony, and the end of capitalism. Maybe this stuff is all in there, but when viewed in a formal way, the best ones are nearly perfect.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Big Brother is Definitely Watching

Jack Balkin is a law professor at Yale, and there's a nice piece on his Balkinization Blog about how the Democrats showed absolutely no backbone in trying to resist the Bush administration's desire to spy on Americans. Here's a link to the complete article, and here's a small bit worth quoting:

"The passage of the new FISA bill by the Senate and now the House demonstrates that the Democrats stand neither for defending civil liberties nor for checking executive power.

They stand for nothing at all.

Conversely, the new bill shows that the Republican Party can get the Democrats to surrender almost any civil liberty– indeed, to give the President just as much unchecked power as he might obtain under a Republican controlled Congress– simply by playing the fear card repeatedly and without shame […]"

Today, Balkin posted a follow-up piece about a letter Bush wrote to Congress requesting "comprehensive reforms" to the new law. In a bizarrely worded passage, Bush asks for "meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001." I guess assisting our Nation is a risky enterprise, especially if the president himself has to shield you from such allegations. What he's talking about is protecting telecom companies who can and should be prosecuted for participating in a wiretapping operation which was fully illegal until this past weekend.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Unbearable Rightness of Being

There's an awful lot of things I don't like about the political right, but something that's always driven me to distraction is the way that right wing pundits, politicians, and talk-show hosts have managed to sell themselves as the vox populi. It seems like no amount of corporate welfare, war-mongering, public land-levelling, or bribery can dislodge this mythology. The left, who want universal health-care, stronger labor and consumer protections, and a progressive tax policy, are presented and percieved as a group of effete elitists. If there is any possibility of something good coming from the Bush administration, it might be a change in this perception.

The political face of the mega-corporation, of insurance and banking, of the oil industry has actually managed to successfully fob itself off as the friend of plain folks. How did this happen? I ask this question a lot, and have gotten a few decent answers, and I have a few ideas of my own. But none seem to cut to the heart of the essential Orwellian paradox of the whole matter.

Stephen Metcalf chimes in with his thoughts on the subject in an elite, effete Times review of a new anthology entitled “Why I Turned Right: Leading Baby Boom Conservatives Chronicle Their Political Journeys.” If there is a required reading list in hell, I'm sure this particular title immediately found its way on to the roster.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Holding Pattern

Yesterday I cam across a tattered copy of the January 1970 Artforum. There's an article by Walter Darby Bannnard called "Notes on American Painting of the Sixties" in which he looks back on the developments in art from the preceding decade. He's a curmudgeon to be sure, but an awful lot of what he writes could be applied word for word to the present day, particularly in respect to the rise of the "new and important" as central criteria to the evaluation of art:

"The present generation of critics, museum directors, and the lot, endowed with a strong sense of history and a determination not to be "wrong," have been clever enough to take in not only the successes of recent art, but also the failures of past criticism as a negative guide to assure that they do not pick against history. They live with the spectre of the critic who denounced new art which proved to be important, and these are the key words of the sixties, the all-purpose catch phrase of the eyeless art public: new and important.

[...] The mediocre ambitious artist is always a few jumps ahead; he has a keen nose for what's "in the air" and he wastes no time bringing in into his art. It is still true that good art is new and important. What is unique to the sixties is that bad art is now new and important. As always, bad art takes aim at assimilated taste. But it has taken until now for assimilated taste to demand these qualities. This has produced something else peculiar to the sixties: the co-existence of many very different-looking styles of art-making, each claiming to be as much "high art" as the others, each with its defenders and detractors. [...] The fear of being "wrong" fosters acceptance of bad art as long as the art public is not sure it is actually bad. History has told them to go along with whatever seems to persist. And their own indecision sustains the very persistence they seek."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Stanczak Interview

Julian Stanczak, Confrontation, 1964. Acrylic on canvas, 54" x 66."

Here's a short interview with Julian Stanczak from the Myartspace blog (thanks for the tip, Gabriele!).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Paulie Report

You may have noticed that I haven't posted any new paintings on this blog for a damned long time. Believe me, it's not because I haven't been working - most of 2007 has been devoted to coming up with the follow-up series to "Circles and Stripes," but it's taken much longer than I had hoped. You know what they say: if it were easy, then everyone would do it.

The good news is that the new paintings are finally starting to flesh themselves out, and I'll be posting some of them as soon as they're shot. I've been lucky enough to have the use of a great studio in Brooklyn for a nice chunk of the summer (thanks, Don!).

I have to (and hate to) vacate the space in early August, though, and if anyone knows of a reasonably priced studio in Manhattan or Brooklyn (on the "L" would be best), please e-mail me at pcorio@nyc.rr.com.

In other news, I'm returning to the academy this fall after a long hiatus. I'll be teaching "2D Integrated Studio" in the Freshman Foundation department at Parsons (thanks, Dan!). A lot of the summer has been devoted to brushing up on the computer programs that are part of the course, preparing my syllabus, and practicing my whip-cracking.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 11

Jackson Pollock, One: Number 31, 1950, 1950. Oil and enamel on unprimed canvas, 8' 10" x 17' 6."

I was at MoMA this past weekend with a bunch of artist pals. When we came to this picture, my former painting professor and good friend George Hofmann said "this could hang in the same room as a Velazquez and hold its own." I couldn't agree more.

The only thing that I find to be less than perfect about this, and virtually all the horizontal drip paintings from '47-'50, is that that Pollock chose to leave a larger space at the top than at the bottom, which tends to give them a little "sag" as opposed to emphasizing their weightlessness. If it were up to me, I'd flip an awful lot of Pollocks over.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The 2003 Kentucky Derby: Funny Cide

Funny Cide was retired last week. Since he's a gelding, he raced for much longer than most Derby winners; there's no lucrative stud career in his future. But with career earnings in excess of $3.5 million, he's not going to end up at the glue factory, either.

He was one of those Seabiscuit/Lava Man stories that people love (including me): a cheap(ish) horse that slays the giants. He was only the 2nd gelding to win the Derby, and the first New York Bred to do it. He went on to win the Preakness, but lost the Belmont Stakes in the slop to Derby favorite Empire Maker.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The John Coltrane Quartet: Afro Blue, 1963

Today is the 40th anniversary of Trane's death, of liver cancer at age 40. What a loss!

This clip is from Ralph Gleason's "Jazz Casual" series, and features McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and the one and only Elvin Jones on drums.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 10

Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1889. Oil on canvas, 25" x 22."

Agony is generally upon as the animating factor in Van Gogh's paintings, but I tend to disagree. When he's really good, it's because of the color; he might be one of the best intuitive colorists in western painting. It even took him by surprise - in his letters to Theo, he describes in great detail his struggles with drawing, and expects to wrestle with oil paint as much as he did with charcoal and watercolor. But in a letter dated August 20, 1882, he states with wonder: "Painting comes easier to me than I imagined, and perhaps the right course would be to put all my effort into it, toiling away at the brush before anything else, but I must confess I'm not sure." His reservation was the cost of materials: "I don't want to push either of us into unnecessary expense, but it is plain that the painted things have a more pleasing aspect."

Van Gogh painted this portrait of his friend Joseph Roulin at Arles in 1889. The entire picture is essentially oppositions of blues and greens against reds and oranges. The effect is most striking in Roulin's green eyes, which are rimmed with strokes of red-orange. They strobe a little (as close-value, high saturation complements tend to do) and this same color treatment is applied to the postman's cheeks in a much more muted way. The face, portrayed in a calm expression but vibrating with energy because of the touches of color dissonance, is then framed with that swirling wallpaper and beard, again using controlled flashes of color opposites. The whole thing is anchored with the large areas of blue in the coat and hat, which keep the composition from just turning into a spinning blur.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Belmont Results, 7/7/07

Cute Lady and Silver Knockers both let me down today; isn't that always the way? I've learned my lesson this time, and set it down in verse:

There once was a painter named Paul
Who bet horses in summer and fall
He sometimes could guess
who was fastest and best
But bet big when he should have bet small

Friday, July 6, 2007

Paulie's Picks, Belmont, 7/7/07

What could be luckier than going to the track on seven-seven-seven? Here are Paulie's picks for tomorrow's card at Belmont:

1st race:
6 - Cute Lady
2 - Sun Shower
3 - Perfectly Natural

2nd race:
2 - Flying Dismount
4 - Lumen
5 - Globalization

3rd race:
1 - Nerve
2b - Tenacious Star
2 - Devil's Concierge
6 - Oh My Stars

4th race:
2 - Port Royal
10 - Sensational Humor
6 - All Verses

5th race:
6 - Stormy Kiss
8 - Fantastic Shirl
3 - Calla Lily

6th race:
5 - Storm Dixie
7 - Jesse's Justice
3 - Visual Candy

7th race:
1a - Inside Info
7 - Defrizz
6 - Here Comes Carlie

8th race:
1 - Silver Knockers
9 - Dream Rush
2 - Cash's Girl

9th race:
8 - Tsunamic
7 - Senor Musician
4 - Victory Assured

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Scooter Skates

In September 2003, George W. Bush said: "If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is and if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

Today he took very good care of that person.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ornette Coleman Quartet, Rome, 1974

77-year-old Ornette Coleman collapsed onstage from heat stroke last week at the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee. Happily, he was released from the hospital after a relatively short stay. Get well fast, Ornette, and drink more water!

Court Watch, pt. 2

The Court issued another 5-4 ruling today which will make it difficult for public school systems to take measures to preserve racial diversity. Segregation, here we come. Again.

An interesting side-story: Scalia, now drunk with power and most likely cranky that he is not chief justice, is taking potshots at Roberts. As I mentioned in an earlier post, when the court neutered MacCain-Feingold, Roberts language was restrained and pious, arguing that his real concern was the preservation of the first amendment. Scalia, in a separate opinion, accused Roberts of being a phoney who was exercising "faux judicial modesty," saying that Roberts should have just come right out and said he aimed to overturn the law. Can you believe it? Scalia said something that I agree with!

The word fascist understandably gets tossed around quite a bit these days, but Scalia's dad actually was one. He received his doctorate at the Casa Italiano at Columbia in the 30's, and at that time you had to swear an oath to Mussolini in order to attend.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Thelonious Monk, Epistrophy, Paris, 1966

Repression Starts on Tuesday

The Bush administration is basically at an end, and a lot of people are already tallying up the damage. Most of W's dismal legacy hangs on the Iraq debacle, but only in recent weeks have the consequences of the Roberts/Alito Supreme Court come into sharp focus. These are lifetime appointments, folks.

They've ruled in favor of restrictions on abortion, chosen developers over the environment, denied citizens the right to challenge Bush's faith-based initiative, and refused to hear a suit which alleges that two pharma giants conspired to monopolize the market on a breast cancer drug. Even the people who expected the worst are in shock at just how quickly this court lurched right, laughing at precedent all the way.

But two wildly inconsistent free-speech decisions handed down today really underscore the court's political agenda. In the first 5-4 ruling, the justices defanged McCain-Feingold, making it easier for private entities to funnel money to political campaigns via so-called "issue ads." Roberts stated with great piety: “the First Amendment requires us to err on the side of protecting political speech rather than suppressing it.”

The second decision revolved around an Alaskan high school student named John Frederick, who held up a banner saying "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a 2002 Olympic Torch Relay ceremony. Frederick was not on school grounds at the time, but the principal saw fit to suspend him for 10 days for his subversive, pro-narcotics message. Frederick sued, claiming the punishment infringed on his right to free speech. Today the court ruled, again 5-4, in favor of the principal. Clearly, Frederick's Animal House-esque banner is far more dangerous to the republic than spending large amounts of money to influence the outcome of an election.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hey Dad, What's a Sesamoid?

Apparently I'm not going to miss out on seeing Invasor after all - while working out at Belmont yesterday morning he injured his sesamoid, ending his racing career, but beginning his career as a stud, which should be quite lucrative. Right now, the highest stud fee belongs to Storm Cat at $500,000 per session (which is still done in the old-fashioned way).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Belmont Results and Other News

A so-so outing: I cashed a few tickets including a trifecta and a decent exacta, but got beaten by a nose a few too many times to finish on the bright side of the books. Still, the game seemed less impenetrable than it has in recent weeks.

The future of NYRA and Aqueduct are still up in the air, and it looks like the state legislature is going to delay any decisions on the matter until after Labor Day. NYRA's president, Charles Hayward, says that he's feeling optimistic, bless his heart, and this is undoubtedly due to the fact that Albany has more or less conceded that NYRA, and not New York State, does in fact own the land that the three tracks stand on. The latest version of the Spitzer plan would give NYRA a 20-year renewal of the New York racing franchise, sell Aqueduct (!) to pay off NYRA's creditors (NYRA is in bankruptcy), and grant the slot machine franchise to the politically well-connected Excelsior Racing Associates. Belmont would get slots and and a winterized inner track which would allow them to take over Aqueduct's winter meeting. Man, I'm going to miss The Big A.

I'm also a little cranky that I'm going to miss the big "I" - Invasor, who took down the mighty Bernardini in the Breeder's Cup Classic and won Horse of the Year in 2006, is running in the Suburban Handicap next weekend at Belmont, and I can't go. I hate when the responsibilities associated with being a grown-up get in the way of the really important things in life.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Paulie's Picks, Belmont, 6/23/07

Regular readers of "Paulie's Picks" have begun to notice that 2007 has not been the best of years for this particular handicapper, so much so that a good friend suggested I stop publishing my racetrack prognostications for a while.

Not a bit of it! Like all true horseplayers, I operate under the firm belief that my losing streak is about to draw to a close, and the next trip to the track will be my best ever. And in that sunny, optimistic spirit, here are my picks for tomorrow's Belmont card (editor's note: even though Paulie is feeling sunny and optimistic, it doesn't mean you should. Bet these horses at your own risk):

1st race:
1 - For Gill
3 - Catch My Cat
7 - Slick City Nites

2nd race:
1 - Clifton Bay
8 - Star Dixie
6 - Queens Full

3rd race:
4 - Americanus
3 - Ice Man Cometh
2 - Precise Alloy

4th race:
4 - Jets Only
12 - Sense of Speed
11 - Really Rollicking

5th race:
3 - Estimator
8 - Winaway
9 - Bonus Size

6th race:
5 - Lahudood
1 - Wingspan
2 - Brantley

7th race:
8 - Cammy's Choice
2 - Western Sweep
5 - Brown Eyed Belle

8th race:
2 - Jade Queen
3 - Vacare
4 - Barancella

9th race:
5 - You Sure
1 - Elder Skatesman
10 - I'll Make It Up

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 9

Henri Matisse. The Red Studio, 1911. Oil on canvas, 72" x 86."

This picture epitomizes the notion of the "optical space" in painting - a space with a certain kind of dimensionality which you can imagine entering and moving through, but not with your body, just your vision.

The red floor and walls, all of essentially equal value and density, bring the ground right up to the picture plane, but the diagrammatic lines and the small retrospective of Matisse's works from that time carries me around the space almost as if on a guided tour. There's a wide point of entry at the center bottom; my eye follows the edge of the table past the plant and bottle to the reclining nude, then around the room, pausing at the pictures, grandfather clock, and sculptures, finally resting in the chairs in the lower right - much like the trajectory I would probably have followed in the actual room.

Matisse had the magical ability to create a flat, patterned space in which color was the dominant aspect without ever turning to abstraction. This is a much rarer accomplishment than you might think - representation of any kind has a tendency to throw purely visual concerns into the back seat.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'll Take Two

Zeitgeist or jewel heist? You decide.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Tyranny of the Zeitgeist

Ward Jackson, Chillohowie, 1971. Acrylic on linen, 36" x 36," courtesy Metaphor Contemporary Art.

Zeit·geist (tsīt'gīst')
- noun, German
the spirit of the time; general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time.

About a week ago I attended a panel discussion about a marvelous and grossly under-recognized painter named Ward Jackson. A question was posed to the panelists as to the number of Ward Jacksons in recent history; painters of a very high caliber whose work was generally overlooked. Just how many are there?

The consensus, obviously, is that there are far too many to calculate, but Jed Perl (one of the panelists) outlined what he considered to be the reason why: Being in sync with the zeitgeist, he said, has become the ultimate measure of success for art and artists. If the artist is not addressing it in an immediately recognizable way, he or she is often considered anachronistic or irrelevant.

Perl went on to conjecture that all art of consequence was in fact in some kind of dialogue with the zeitgeist, but often in a more personal and circuitous way; not always evident at first glance and not always in full agreement with the art world's prevailing intrpretation(s) of it. Demanding a front-and-center approach runs roughshod over the personal and highly individual nature of art and artists.

I've been thinking about this ever since. Of course he's right, but there's an interesting irony at play. When post-modernism slew the dragon known as Clement Greenberg, part of the new compact was that arbitrary measures of quality were considered a relic of the old regime. Quality became a dirty word, simply a reflection of the power group's taste and their ability to enforce it. All very sound reasoning, especially in light of Greenberg's increasingly strident insistence on flatness and a reiteration of the framing edge, not to mention the white-males-only nature of his inner circle.

But the dismissal of the notion of quality created an unusual problem. Inclusion and a multifarious approach to making and showing art is clearly a good thing. But some exercise of judgement is still always made when curating or reviewing an art exhibition. Work is never hung in museums or galleries on a first-to-arrive basis; judgments are rendered, most work is rejected. The cover story here is that post-post-modern rejections are not made on the basis of quality, but on the basis of cultural relevance, i.e. proximity to the zeitgeist. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

As the notion of quality was being assailed in the late 60's, Greenberg himself pointed out that in more informal settings, art world intellectuals never stopped using the language of quality: "this show was great," or "that show stunk." But in print, in the classroom, or any other more official setting the language had changed dramatically.

The real sea-change was in fact semantic; the abolition of quality as a yardstick never really took place. Even in today's all-over-the-place art world, the same handful of dominant themes continually resurface; if I see one more show about identity accompanied by a banal catalog essay on the subject I'm certainly going to puke.

It's a funny thing; until this week, it never really occurred to me that rebelling against this particular criterion - communion with the zeitgeist - was a necessity. Manet is one of my heroes, and even as he looked back at Velazquez he was in perfect sync with 19th century modernity; perhaps the first real painter of the zeitgeist. I've always taken it as an article of faith that the self-conscious expression of modernity should be a primary goal. Now I'm not so sure.

It comes down to the old question as to whether art is the mirror that reflects the culture or the hammer that shapes it. If the artist takes the role of mirror, he or she must follow instead of lead. Depiction of the zeitgeist is a necessarily passive position, and it requires a lot more television than I'm willing to watch.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Belmont Results, 6/9/07

What s day! Rags to Riches became the first filly in 102 years to beat the boys in the Belmont Stakes, Todd Pletcher won his very first Triple Crown race, and Paulie lost yet another shirt. Hooray!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Paulie's Picks, Belmont, 6/9/07

Well, tomorrow's the biggest day of the year in New York racing: The Belmont Stakes. A few things have changed since I made my early pick for the race: Street Sense and Circular Quay are both out, which eliminates Curlin's chief rival and the best closer, respectively.

There are only seven horses in the race, and despite a couple of wild cards, it looks to be Curlin's for the taking. On paper, there are only two really credible opponents, but both have some pretty big asterisks. Hard Spun, 2nd in the Derby and 3rd in the Preakness, gets a new rider, but his front-running style puts him at a big disadvantage at a mile-and-a-half; I'm betting that he doesn't even land in the trifecta. Rags to Riches has the class and the right running style, but a filly hasn't beaten the boys in the Belmont Stakes since 1905. I don't think she'll win, but I'm pretty sure she'll hit the board.

Here are my picks for the whole card, which features a fistful of other classy graded stakes:

1st race:
2 - Lord Snowdon
5 - Executive Search
7 - Grand Champion

2nd race:
9 - Prom Party
8 - Risky Agenda
1 - Slewfoundmoney

3rd race:
4 - Hesanoldsalt
1 - A.P. Arrow
3 - Papi Chullo

4th race:
5 - Bird of play
9 - Smoky Chimney
10 - Defrereoftheheart

5th race:
7 - Meribel
11 - Fantastic Shirl
8 - Criminologist

6th race, The True North Handicap (G2):
5 - Bordanaro
1 - Dashboard Drummer
1a - Suave Jazz
2 - Council Member

7th race, The Just a Game (G2):
5 - Wait a While
2 - My Typhoon
1 - Take the Ribbon

8th race, The Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup (G2):
2 - Deadly Dealer
8 - Street Magician
3 - Stormello

9th race, The Acorn (G1):
3 - Christmas Kid
1 - Dream Rush
6 - Boca Grande

10th race, The Manhattan Handicap (G1):
2 - English Channel
7 - Better Talk Now
3 - Sky Conqueror

11th race, The Belmont Stakes (G1):
3 - Curlin
7 - Rags to Riches
1 - Imawildandcrazyguy

12th race:
2 - Sweet Corredor
5 - Quiet Rendition
9 - Heavenly Anna

13th race:
9 - Jackie's Punt
3 - Stately Pegasus
10 - Bachelornumberone

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 8

Diego Velázquez, Innocent X, 1650. Oil on canvas, 56" x 47."

I'm going to resist the temptation to reel off superlatives about this portrait, I'll just offer this: apparently Pope Innocent X was unhappy with it because he said it was "too real."

Giovanni Battista Pamphili (his real name) was a voracious art collector, and his will stipulated that his collection could not be broken up after his death. The Doria Pamphili collection in Rome, which houses this picture and the equally impressive Bernini portrait-bust, is testament to the fact that wealth and a good eye are not always companions. The vast majority of the collection could be housed in the dumpster, and the history of western art would be none the worse for it.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Belmont Results, 5/28/07

In today's 2nd race, my first choice was scratched. My second and third choices were at decent odds, and the exacta probables looked surprisingly generous. So I box up my two guys, Striking Rizzi and Dr. D.F.C., and am feeling pretty confident as they come charging down the lane side by side. That confidence quickly changed into sorrow, however, as a 60-1 shot named Big Daddy Rex came out of the clouds to win by 3/4 of a length. And that's basically how today went.

Lawyer Ron and Sun King, who are both routinely big disappointments at short odds, did it again today, finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the Met Mile. I can't really grumble, though, I gave them both another chance knowing that this was a real probability. Corinthian looked tough in this race; he's been impressive in G2 and G3 company, but he's also lost to 2nd-level allowance horses. This G1 win makes him a big dog, and it might be that he's more ideally suited to the mile (the distance at which he broke his maiden), than he is to the 9 furlong events he's been running in.

In other news, it looks like the Derby/Preakness trifecta of Curlin, Street Sense, and Hard Spun are all going to show up for the Belmont Stakes (Saturday, June 9th). I was pretty surprised to hear this. A mile-and-a-half is a rough distance, particularly for younger horses, and with no possibilty of a Triple Crown I would think that most owners and trainers would point their G1 livestock at the Travers in August or the Breeder's Cup in the fall.

Hard Spun will be getting a new rider, but I don't think it's going to help his case. His front-running style puts him at a big disadvantage over such a long distance. Curlin and Street Sense are both stalkers, so they'll probably be around at the end - but I don't think either will win. My early pick, obviously subject to change over the next couple of weeks, is Circular Quay, who finished 6th in the Derby and 4th in the Preakness. Deep closers have an edge in a really long race, where all the front-running types tend to spit out the bit in the stretch. Last year's Belmont Stakes was won by Jazil, who wasn't the most talented of the bunch, but had the right running style - the same running style as Circular Quay.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Paulie's Picks, Belmont, 5/28/07

Tomorrow is one of the more significant races of the Belmont spring meeting: the G1 Metropolitan Handicap, affectionately known as the Met Mile. The mile is a tricky distance to handicap at Belmont; the track is so big (1.5 miles, the biggest thoroughbred track in America) that a mile goes around only one turn, and kind of feels like a sprint. This year's Met mile is a a pretty deep field of 10 starters with lots of graded-stakes credentials among them. In the end, I didn't agonize over it too hard, though - there are so many speedball types in the race that I went with the pressers and closers - I think the front runners are going to be pretty exhausted when they hit the top of the stretch.

1st race:
1 - On the Margin
6 - Cockney Gambler
9 - Lucky Straight

2nd Race:
4 - Senor Musician
7 - Dr. D.F.C.
2 - Striking Rizzi

3rd race:
1 - Commentator
5 - Shaky Town
3 - Executive Search

4th race:
1a - Winstrella
2 - Pick Six
8 - Rhythm Master

5th race:
1 - Gulch Fever
4 - Thunderestimate
7 - Back to Mandalay

6th race:
2 - Reverberate
5 - Organizer
4 - Pink Viper

7th race:
8 - Pays to Dream
6 - S.S. Crafty
3 - Banrock

8th race (The Met Mile):
2 - Lawyer Ron
1a - Silver Wagon
4 - Sun King

9th race:
3 - Perfect Bullet
2 - Hyracotherium
9 - Ambassador

10th race:
4 - Truth or Dare
11 - Kal El
8 - Renown

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Spring

Tonight I went up to Columbia to hear the Sam Rivers Trio at the Miller Theater. Sam is one of the most under-celebrated figures in jazz, but Columbia's WKCR radio made a real effort to change this by playing 177 straight hours of Rivers' music, culminating in tonight's concert which they streamed live on the web. Rivers was, at 83, as creative and masterful as ever, and Dave Holland on bass was nothing less than stellar.

I came home from the show and pulled out a record I hadn't thought about in a long while - Spring, by Tony Williams, put out by Blue Note in 1965. What a gem.

In 1964, on Tony's recommendation, Sam joined the Miles Davis Quintet. There was only one "official" release: Miles in Tokyo, but there a bunch of bootlegs floating around. Sam was apparently a little too free for Miles' taste, and was replaced shortly thereafter by Wayne Shorter.

On Spring, Tony's second effort as a bandleader, Shorter and Rivers both play tenor on three of the five tracks: Extras, From Before, and Tee. Hearing these two fully formed virtuosi, bobbing and weaving with their contrasting styles, backed up by the rhythm section of Tony, Herbie Hancock, and Gary Peacock, is really something special.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Rhythm-A-Ning

Rhythm-A-Ning, 2005. Acrylic on panel, 10.5" x 8.5."

I'm a very political person: a dedicated leftist; a believer in the possibility of a Socialist alternative. As such, my belief in art as a primarily visual enterprise is something that I've struggled with on and for a long time. How can a leftist make purely visual art, which is essentially a status item for the privileged few? How can one make art that deals with color and space while the Bush administration fosters misery and death both domestically and abroad?

My current thinking on these issues:

After grad school, my interest in Marxist aesthetics led me to the conclusion that the art object was a crass reification; a commodification of the pure transmission of an art idea. While I felt this way was it was basically impossible for me to paint; my primary mode of expression became improvised music, which is something that can never be owned - each performance is unique, and disappears into the ether upon completion.

But a close reading of Marx's views on the alienation of labor reveals that Marx wasn't opposed to objects per se, but objects that couldn't be closely identified with the their maker. Alienated labor is a condition of the production line, wherein the maker becomes slave to the object; himself or herself a commodity of a lower order, and more miserable, than the object they help to fabricate. Art is perfectly at odds with this mode of production: the maker is intimately and inextricably linked to the object he or she creates; which should be the model for all consumer objects, from the simplest to the most complex.

And if one changes the way he or she makes art as a response to the Bush administration (or any other illegitimate and coercive state), doesn't that mean the oppressors have already won? If the revolution ever actually happens, one of the reasons we'll fight will be for the privilege to paint pictures, compose symphonies, and write poems about love.

Bird's Eye View

Look at the way Street Sense blows by Curlin at the top of the stretch, and then Curlin comes back to win. Not many horses have a second run ready once they've been left behind.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Preakness Results and Other News

Well, I was right about the big three from the Derby, just a little off on the order. Curlin looked lean and mean passing four horses before clipping Street Sense at the wire. Two races prior to this gutsy performance, Curlin's jockey, Robby Albarado, was thrown from his horse in the Dixie Stakes. These are tough little men, let me tell you. I hope all three horses show up for the Belmont Stakes in a few weeks, but they probably won't. If there's no hope for a Triple Crown, I think most owners and trainers would just as soon not put their expensive livestock through a mile-and-a-half ordeal; it's more likely they'll show up in the Travers and/or the Breeder's Cup after they're good and rested.

In other news: apparently, Eliot Spitzer's proposal for the overhaul of the New York State racing franchise includes closing Aqueduct (!) and selling the land for commercial development (!!). And to think I voted for this guy. Control of Belmont would be re-opened to the bidding process that started at the tail-end of the Pataki administration, and Aqueduct's winter race meeting would be held there. NYRA would be allowed to maintain control of Saratoga, which is open one month out of the year. In the words of Catskill Regional OTB's president, Donald Groth: “If NYRA were relegated to only have Saratoga, what would they do the rest of the year as an organization?”

Friday, May 18, 2007

Paulie's Picks, Pimlico & Belmont, 5/19/07

I really don't like to play favorites. I want more than anything else to sniff out an overlay with a special, subtle angle that most guys just can't see. It's not about money, either; it's about bragging rights. I'd settle for money, though, and in that spirit, I'm making an extremely unimaginative call for the Preakness.

No matter how many times I look at the charts, I can't find a good reason to bet against the Derby trifecta. Mint Slewlep, Xchanger, Flying First Class, and CP West all look fully outclassed. King of the Roxy has never won at over 7-and-one-half furlongs. Circular Quay is probably the most credible competition for the Derby trio, but it doesn't look like he's going to get the necessary pace meltdown to set up his closing run.

All that said, it's highly unlikely that the same three horses will finish in the same order two weeks apart, so I'm going with Hard Spun (even though I'm going to box up all three to be on the safe side). In the Derby, Hard Spun turned back a lot of challengers for the lead (including my pick), and was still competitive at the end of the race. By contrast, Street Sense rolled along on the rail through fractions that were not especially punishing and let the front-runners tire themselves out before making his big move in the stretch. So I think it will come out something like this:

7 - Hard Spun
8 - Street Sense
4 - Curlin

I'm going to watch the simulcast at Belmont, and I figure as long as I'm going to be there anyway, I might as well play the whole card. Here's Paulie's Picks for Belmont, 5/18/07:

1st race:
10 - Megatrend
6 - For Gill
4 - Sahm Iahm

2nd Race:
4 - The Duke of Stanco
2 - Wild Wizard
7 - Charlie Caliente

3rd race:
3 - Abeautifulsight
1 - Pacific Sun
5 - Wannabourbonorme

4th race:
5 - Winaway
4 - Papershoes
7 - Our Brave Hobbit

5th race:
7 - Dontess
6 - Appealing Spring
3 - Devilshire

6th race:
3 - Gentle Touch
2 - Defrereoftheheart
4 - Stormy Success

7th race:
2 - Super Nationals
9 - Fairway Drive
4 - Calagaitor

8th race:
6 - Silmaril
3 - Sugar Shake
5 - Teammate

9th race:
6 - Premium Wine
2 - Call Me Larry
9 - Bird of Play

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The 1989 Preakness: Sunday Silence and Easy Goer

My good friend Richard (who foolishly bet on my Derby picks), talks about this race with great reverence. And with good reason: that stretch run, in which Sunday Silence and Easy Goer look each other in the face with less than 100 yards to go, is the stuff of legend. Sunday Silence edged out Easy Goer by a nose (sorry, Rich), but Easy Goer upset Sunday Silence's Triple Crown bid by winning the Belmont Stakes.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Abstract Painting: People Like It

A few events of note:

Colorfield Remix
is a big group hug for color field painting. More than 30 Washington, DC museums and galleries will be hanging shows on the theme (Morris Louis and Ken Noland are both from the DC area). It started in April and runs through July.

Cynthia Broan Gallery
has a show up until the 26th called Optikats, which features artists who use updated Op premises. From the press release: "Optikats features works which inspire active viewing." Like music to my ears.

And next fall at the Denver Art Museum: Color as Field, featuring Frankenthaler, Noland, Louis, Olitski, Poons, plus precursors such as Rothko, Sam Francis, and Clyfford Still.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Saturday, May 5, 2007

2007 Derby Results

Oh, well, maybe next year. And yes, that is my choice to win in last place.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Paulie's Picks, The 2007 Kentucky Derby

Where does the time go? Here it is, the first Friday in May already, meaning tomorrow is the first Saturday in May, and we all know what that means. They say events unfold in groups of three. This week Artforum did a cover story on Op and the Warriors beat the Mavericks in a true David and Goliath fairy tale. I'm hoping that unlikely occurrence #3 is Paulie picking a long-priced winner in the Derby.

A little news flash first: the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet decided to give all 20 Derby starters a surprise drug test today. The kicker is that they're not going to make the results available until after the race, so I guess it follows that there's a chance the winner may be disqualified.

Ok, I'm stalling, and the reason is that as I type this I'm still thinking about my picks. This is a very, very tough race to call.

Last night I went to Len Ragozin's famous Derby seminar at the Ukrainian National Home on 2nd Ave. For $20, you get copies of "The Sheets" (Ragozin's legendary speed figures) for the Derby and Kentucky Oaks, plus Len Friedman's picks for the two races. Len narrowed the field down to about six contenders, which I could have done at home for free.

Curlin looks like he might be a super-horse, and he's got the highly desirable #2 post. But he's only raced three times. All extremely impressive wins, but as Andrew Beyer pointed out in his Daily Racing Form column, there hasn't been a Derby winner with less than four races under his belt since Exterminator in 1918 (29 have tried) and there hasn't been a winner who didn't race as a two-year-old since Apollo in, get ready, 1882. Also, Curlin is probably going to go off at a very short price because of the way he crushed the Arkansas Derby.

What complicates matters further is the weather forecast. It's been raining and it's supposed to keep raining, so the track should be a mess. This is the only real knock on Street Sense, who is the favorite in some of the morning lines (Curlin is the favorite in others). Street Sense only has one race in the mud and he came in third. Curlin is also untested in the slop.

Some of the other logical choices, and their problems (or maybe my problems):

In my estimation, Nobiz Like Shobiz gets an asterisk for his win in the Wood Memorial. It was a pretty slow race, Nobiz got a dream trip on the rail, and Any Given Saturday was caught wide on both turns.

Circular Quay looks great on paper, and Johnny Velazquez picked him to ride - Johnny V could have chosen any of the five Todd Pletcher horses in the race. But where has Pletcher been hiding this horse for two months? Why no prep races? Does have have the sniffles, or worse?

I was ready to give the afore-mentioned Any Given Saturday a by for his poor performance in the Wood, but as fate would have it he's marooned in the 18th post position.

I'm probably going to play a matrix of exactas, trifectas, and a couple of superfectas - the 2005 super (Giacomo/Closing Argument/Afleet Alex/Don't Get Mad) paid $1.3 million, which would really come in handy right now. I know, I'm still stalling.

Based largely on post positions, pace set-ups, and rain-drops, here are my picks for the 2007 Kentucky Derby. If you know what's good for you, you probably won't risk any money on this:

6 - Cowtown Cat
8 - Hard Spun
18 - Any Given Saturday
2 - Curlin

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Why Is This Man Smiling?

What a week! I can only think of one thing more unusual than Artforum doing a cover package on Op, and that would be the 8th seed, 42-40 Golden State Warriors knocking out the top seed, 67-15 Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Click here for the Times piece.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

You Could Have Knocked Me Over With a Feather

Yesterday morning I got the following e-mail from a good pal (Thanks, Richard):

COVER STORY

OP ART REVISITED: new artforum

Needless to say, I went out to the newsstand and plunked down $10 (for a magazine!?), to see what they had to say. There are two side-by-side articles, one by David Rimanelli and one by Sarah K. Rich. They both cover the two concurrent Op survey shows, one in Columbus and one in Frankfurt, and both felt the need to say a lot of really dismissive things about Op before they admit, grudgingly and conditionally, that some of the work was really good. A sampling from Rimanelli's piece (entitled "Beautiful Loser"):

"...Why should we be looking at this mid-century anachronism again? What are we supposed to learn? The cynic no doubt wonders whether all those museum curators, academics, and artists who have been mining the '60's for good material finally found the well dried up - meaning, Op is all that's left to rediscover."

He muses that maybe the correct way to view Op is not as art, but as a socio-cultural phenomenon: The way that the general public accepted and even loved it, and the way it was so quickly transformed into posters and dresses, etc. There's another point here that he intimates without actually stating: maybe Op is now so thoroughly reviled that it can be resurrected with quotation marks around it as a metaphor and critique of blah blah blah. Lisa Yuskavage and John Currin certainly did this with magazine illustration and porn, which were once, as hard as it is to believe now, at the bottom of the aesthetic heap.

Rimanelli ultimately concedes:

"But now I am compelled to reconsider the Op-is-junk bias. Op, regardless of its numerous contemporaneous detractors and of the dim fate usually accorded it by art history, is, in its best moments, a movement of keen visual, intellectual, and historical interest."

How magnanimous! The Rich piece has a similar trajectory; both writers give up their praise for Op with just a little less difficulty than it would take to remove their own tonsils. It's also interesting to note the number of times both articles cite the Op-hating Greenberg, who is generally persona non grata in the pages of Artforum. Both writers conclude that the visual discomfort caused by many Op works juxtaposed with their instant accessibility is a metaphor for modernity - pleasure and pain, gluttony and nausea, and so on, all mixed together. It's hard to write about art.

A few observations:

Op was in large part dismissed because of the rapidity with which it was absorbed into pop culture and the extent to which the general public embraced it. This bears a closer look: before Impressionism, civilians liked art. The modern-day art museum generally has one night a week in which admission is free. The French salons had the exact opposite system: admission was charged one day per week so the rich could enjoy the show without having to rub elbows with the unwashed masses who generally packed the galleries.

This all changed with the modern painters (Impressionists, Post-impressionists, Cubists, etc.) who were roundly misunderstood and often loathed by the public and the art establishment. And this remains the irresistible model for the artist today: the rebel outsider. The irony, of course, is that today there is a whole institutional, academic, and commercial apparatus that can't wait to welcome the newest rebel outsider. But the mythology persists.

Interestingly, when elements of pop culture are appropriated into fine art, it doesn't generate the same level of distaste as the reverse of this process, even though the former is a deliberate choice made by the artist (again, Yuskavage and Currin among many, many others). The Op painters' work was appropriated without their consent, and in the case of Bridget Riley, in spite of her protests. I imagine that a person who sees no contradiction in this would say something about how Op was too easy to like, which suggests shallowness. But just because the general public likes this or that art, it doesn't necessarily mean they get it. When art is sucked into pop culture (as it always is, eventually), it's usually the most superficial aspects that make the trip.

All the literature suggests, correctly, that Color Field was overthrown in a rebellion against Greenberg's unprecedented power, and that Op was shot down because it quickly became the jetsam and flotsam of pop culture. But I've always believed that there's an additional factor in the demise of both styles, and of abstract painting generally, that isn't discussed as much. And the reason it isn't discussed as much is because the people most capable of discussing it are responsible.

It's hard to talk/write about art that's primarily visual; that espouses a primarily non-verbal experience. What can you say about an enveloping color experience? I recently read a review by Jerry Saltz of the latest Carroll Dunham solo exhibition. There's a picture in the show of a gender-ambiguous cartoon figure about to rape himself/herself with a pistol. Saltz weaves an extended metaphor about Iraq, the failure of western culture, and the demise of American hegemony from this image. It's hard to imagine that he could have extracted this from a picture that was, say, yellow. As I mentioned earlier, Rimanelli and Rich, who finally concede that some Op art is good art, really don't speak about it in visual terms; both wrap up their pieces with the conclusion that Op is a mirror for the modern dystopia.

I think that the renewed interest in Op is in large measure a renewed interest in visual art, even as the Artforum writers and editors try and recast it as something else.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

OSHA

Deregulation has been a crusade for every president since Reagan, including Bill Clinton. Various lines of patter are used to get the public on board, since it almost always includes no benefit for the population at large, and more often works to their detriment. Corporations tend to be the big winners in all deregulation schemes.

Pushes toward deregulation are sometimes covered in the mainstream media, but their consequences, which typically materialize slowly in the years that follow, are seldom given any attention. There is, however, an article in today's Times about the de-fanged Occupational Safety and Health Administration that's worth a look.

Needless to say, OSHA was almost completely stripped of it's enforcement powers by the Bush adminstration. Most of it's rules are now voluntary. No, really, voluntary. And people are getting very sick in the workplace, including a the workers from the Times piece: nine people who came in contact with a potentially lethal food additive while working in a microwave popcorn factory.

The defenders of this particular type of deregulation would point to, among other things, a reduction in the size of government (the old Gingrich battle cry). In this case, though, the government was not made smaller, but simply made impotent. And what could more of a waste of tax dollars that that? Oh, wait, I almost forgot about Iraq...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Work in Iraq

This should do the trick.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 7

Eugene Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus, 1827. Oil on canvas, 12' 1" x 16' 3."

I'm not a huge fan of Romanticism, but I thought the two best paintings at the Louvre were Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus and Gericault's Raft of the Medusa (which will most likely turn up in a later installment of "Paintings I Like").

The scene in this painting is from a play by Lord Byron called Sardanapalus, which tells the story of an Assyrian king who orders his entire city burned and all its inhabitants killed rather than turning it over to an invading army. At the end of the play, Sardanapalus sets himself on fire. Sardanapalus may or may not have actually existed.

Vaguely to overtly racist "Arabian" themes were immensely popular in 19th-century French painting well past the Romantic era (paintings of this sort drew the scorn of the Impressionists and Van Gogh). Not surprisingly, exotic pin-up girls routinely played a role in pieces from this genre. All of that said, this painting is still a full-fledged masterpiece.

There is no floor that I can identify - just writhing figures, anchored by that big red bed and the bizarrely calm Sardanapalus. The only thing in the picture that resembles a straight line is the gaze from the king to the concubine in the foreground pleading for her life - the two most well-lit areas of the painting. Delacroix was probably the best colorist of the Romantic period, and clearly absorbed a great deal from the Venetians: the intervals of deep red in the areas of highest drama and the hazy atmosphere in the upper right and lower left are very much informed by that style.

The size was what really gave it magnificence. I'd seen the painting in reproduction many times before actually seeing the original in the Louvre, but was completely unprepared for the real article. It's like a Cecil B. DeMille period movie - it really only works on the Big Screen.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chomsky and Zinn

Two of my heroes did a rare side by side interview on Democracy Now this morning, live in Boston. Click here to read the transcript or download the audio. They're slated to do another live segment later in the week.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Slew Motion

Slew Motion, 2005. Acrylic on panel, 8.5" x 10.5."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 6

Diego Velazquez, Juan de Pareja, 1650. Oil on canvas, 32" x 28."

Edouard Manet, Mademoiselle V... in the Costume of an Espada, 1862. Oil on canvas, 65" x 50."

Last week I was going through some of my papers from Hunter, and came across something I wrote in 1999 about Velazquez' influence on Manet - 4 years before the Metropolitan put up their blockbuster on this same theme. The paper is centered around these two pictures, both in the permanent collection at the Met. I really like these paintings.

Click here to read or download the essay in pdf format. Warning: it's 12 pages plus footnotes. There's a plus for all the NYC readers, though: one of the limitations I gave myself was to only discuss pictures I could go see, and most are at the Met (one is at the Frick). Print the paper, take it to the Met, and if you think I'm full of it feel free to post your bile right here on my blog.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Sol Lewitt, 1928-2007

Wall Drawing #1042 (Isometric Form), 2002. Acrylic, 12' x 40.'

Wall Drawing #1100 (Concentric bands). 2004.

Bands of Equal Width of Color, 2000. Linocut, edition of 75, 30" x 30."

I'll always remember the first time I read LeWitt's "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art" in the June 1967 issue of Artforum, in which he wrote: "When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art." I read it about thirty years after he wrote it, but it was still a real eye-opener for me. It ran so counter to the way I thought about art-making. But despite this quintessentially cool approach, his work was always, at least in my eyes, highly emotional, poetic, and quite beautiful in the most traditional sense.

Here's his obit in the Times.

Paintings I Like, pt. 5

Ellsworth Kelly, Blue Green Red, 1962-63. Oil on canvas, 91" x 82."

This picture hangs in the peculiar 20th century collection at the Metropolitan Museum. I love the way it refers so directly to landscape, but remains stubbornly abstract. The colors are virtually identical in value and saturation, and the shallow space is carved out by the fact that red tends to proceed and blues and greens tend to recede (with green receding slightly more than blue).

The scale is is perfect, both in terms of the part-to-whole-relationships, and in terms of the size of the picture in relation to viewer - it's bigger than you, which gives it the grandeur of landscape, but not so large that you can't take it in all at once. And that cigar shape has the strange quality of looking like it's moving very quickly, but at the same time being perfectly still, like those odd stop-time photos you'll sometimes see of a bullet frozen in the air.

The thing I admire so much about Kelly is his clarity. Did you ever have a person, a teacher maybe, explain a very difficult concept to you in one or two deceptively simple sentences, and then suddenly you understood the meaning perfectly? Kelly's work, for me, is the visual equivalent of that particular phenomenon.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Aqueduct Results, 4/7/07

Another tough day at the office. Maybe I should stick to my other highly lucrative endeavors, like making abstract paintings or playing drums in small jazz combos.

Nobiz Like Shobiz proved the naysayers wrong, including me, by turning back Any Given Saturday in the Wood Memorial. Still, I think Nobiz isn't a great bet in the Kentucky Derby next month; 1:49.46 is not a bad time for 9 furlongs, but it didn't shatter any records either.

Interestingly, finishing 3rd today will probably not provide Any Given Saturday enough earnings to get into the Derby; only the top 2o earners are allowed in (here is the earnings list for 3-year-old Derby contenders as of 4/1/07). Steve Crist pointed out the folly of this system in his column in the Daily Racing Form today: Jack Junior is a horse who has never won a race, but was fortunate enough to be beaten by 9-and-one-half lengths in the $2,000,000 UAE Derby. His 2nd place purse money from such a rich race qualifies him for the Kentucky Derby easily, while Any Given Saturday, who has won half his races and never finished off the board, may not qualify.

As I mentioned in my last post, there were two other big Derby Preps today: The Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, and the Santa Anita Derby.

Cowtown Cat, the stretchout sprinter who upset Summer Doldrums in the Gotham last month went wire to wire in the Illinois Derby. The pace was dawdling (24.85 seconds for the quarter and 49.42 for the half), and the final time for 9 furlongs was 1:51.21. It makes me wonder if a Hong-Kong style tranquilizer-dart device was installed near the gate.

The big upset of the day happened in California, where Tiago won the Santa Anita Derby at 25-1. Not surprisingly, Tiago is full brother to Giacomo, who took the 2005 Kentucky Derby at 50-1, the second-longest odds in Derby history. The longest odds ever, by the way, happened way back in 1913, when Donerail came in at 91-1.