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.