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.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Paulie's Picks, Aqueduct, 4/7/07

There are three big races tomorrow which will be the final preps for many of the Derby hopefuls: The Santa Anita Derby, the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, and Aqueduct's biggest race of the year, The Wood Memorial. Guess which one I'm going to.

Nobiz Like Shobiz and Any Given Saturday look like the two big boys in the Wood. I'm giving the edge to Any Given Saturday; his speed figures have been improving, while Nobiz Like Shobiz seems to have plateaued. Not a bad plateau, mind you, but he's going to have to move forward to take the Derby (or the Wood, for that matter).

Anyway, here are my picks for the whole card, which I publish reluctantly given my previous performance at the Big A. As always, I take no responsibility for money squandered based on these choices. Tune in tomorrow night for results.

1st race:
3 - Quahada
10 - Lieutenant Danz
4 - River Mountain Rd

*2nd race:
5 - Hangingbyathread
4 - Vim N Vigor
8 - Vision of Sunrise

*The 2nd race is slated to go off on the turf track, but might be moved to the dirt track if the weather is bad. If it gets moved to the main (dirt) track, these are my choices:
2 - Red Giant
8 - Vision of Sunrise
3 - Charlie Caliente

3rd race:
4 - Hedge Fund
6 - Truman's Gold
1 - Jamacian Kev

4th Race:
8 - Sly Diamond Jim
7 - Love Abroad
10 - Market Psychology

5th race:
10 - Love Cove
6 - Court Spark
7 - Talking Treasure

6th race:
4 - Blue Mon
1 - Malibu Moonshine
1a - Successful Affair
5 - Northern Storm

7th race, The Bay Shore (G3):
1 - Les Grand Trois
5 - Bill Place
4 - Hobbitontherocks

8th race, The Wood Memorial (G1):
1a - Any Given Saturday
2 - Nobiz Like Shobiz
5 - Summer Doldrums

9th race, The Carter Handicap (G1):
7 - Keyed Entry
4 - Silver Wagon
3 - Ah Day

10th race, The Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap (G3):
6 - Evening Attire
1 - Corinthian
4 - Magna Graduate

11th race:
8 - Automatic Appeal
2 - Golden Manna
1 - Timerene

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Scarlet Letter is Actually "G"

As I mentioned in my short obit on Jules Olitski, his career was laid low by his association with Clement Greenberg, who after 40 years is still reviled like the plague. I just read Michael Fried's Olitski piece in Artforum, and was pretty surprised to find out the depth to which this hatred runs. In Art Since 1900, the 704 page volume on modern art released in 2004 by the heavyweight quartet of Yves-Alan Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Hal Foster, and former Greenberg disciple Rosalind Krauss, the subject of Olitski and Color Field is, well, skipped. You might not like it, but it's rather hard to deny that it happened, no?

Here's the first half of the first paragraph of Fried's Olitski obit:

"Before sitting down to draft these reflections, I went to my shelves and brought forth Yves-Alan Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Hal Foster, and Rosalind Krauss's monumental and tendentious Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, and Postmodernism (2004), consulted the index, and looked up 'Olitski, Jules.' There was one reference, on page 472. I turned to page 472, where I found an inset column headed 'Artforum.' In the last paragraph I read: '[Editor Philip] Leider's insistence on lucid analytical prose forged a close relationship between him and Michael Fried, opening the magazine's pages as well to Clement Greenberg and its covers to artists such as Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland, and Morris Louis.' Nice for me but not so nice for Jules, one of the foremost painters of the last half century - also a sculptor of great originality - no work by whom in any medium is deemed worthy of being illustrated in Bois, Buchloh, Foster, and Krauss's massive tome, which will likely have a huge impact on pedagogy in upcoming years [Corio note: the book contains 300 illustrations, 200 in color]. Then, knowing the outcome, but wishing to make sure, I turned to the section called "Further Reading" at the rear of their book, a section organized by key names and movements, where Color Field painting is conspicuous by its absence. I mention this not to protest - what would be the point? - but rather by way of indicating the state of the question with respect to high modernist art in soi-distant avant-garde circles as recently as 2004."

I suppose I should take heart in the simple fact that Artforum, which has been in large measure the messenger of the "painting-is-dead" message, saw fit to print this piece. But I'm still rather taken aback by the near-complete exclusion of color painting in Art Since 1900. Ironically, I'm probably going to go ahead and buy the book now to find out what they say was happening during this period, or if they simply skip these years entirely ($58.69 is the lowest price I've found, but I'm going to shop a little more).

It's important to remember that things pertaining to culture (art, religion, language, etc.) never die by fiat; they die when they no longer have utility. All the 704 page books in the world can't kill abstract painting if society still wants it. And by the same token, the most skillful attempts to preserve it won't work if society, by a natural drift, disregards it. Only the passage of time will sort this out, but I'm going to keep painting until the results are in.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 4

Sanford Gifford, Kauterskill Clove, 1862. Oil on canvas, 48" x 40."

You really have to pick and choose when it comes to the Hudson River painters - some lapse into a maudlin postcard type of thing, but the best of them are rivaled only by the Impressionists in terms of the depiction of light. Sanford Gifford is my favorite of the group.

There are two things about this painting that are really amazing to me:

First is the depiction of that humid, August haze that hangs in the air. In the valley, Gifford contrasts blue greys and pale blue violets against the yellow-green trees lit by the sun. The values are quite close, and the result is a kind of Venetian haze (if you've been reading my posts and looking at my work, you know this misty close-value technique is a big thing with me).

And second, that sun - whenever I see this painting, I reflexively squint. That small dab of white, surrounded by the palest ring of orange, and then the complimentary blue, both lightened so as to be barely differentiated from the white, gives the picture a dazzlingly bright, back-lit effect. This is a technique you can also see in Turner, especially the one that hangs in the dining room at the Frick Collection here in New York.

There was a terrific little Gifford show at the Met at the end of 2003, click here to see some of the pictures.

Incidentally, I was introduced to this painting by one of my professors, a painter who's first name is also Sanford. What are the odds?