Saturday, February 28, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Paulie's Picks, Aqueduct, 2/28/09

After a hard week of wrestling with abstract forms in the studio and shaping young minds in the hallowed halls of the university, there's nothing I like better than blowing my paycheck at the Big A. Here are Professor Paulie's picks for tomorrow's card:

1st race:
8 - R Fast Favorite
2 - Americanus
1 - Chief Operator

2nd race:
5 - Spunky
6 - Posse in Effect
2 - Apple

3rd race:
5 - Raised for Speed
1 - Pay in Kind
2 - More Than a Reason

4th race:
8 - Figgy's Freud
1 - Federal Deposit
5 - Mandate

5th race:
1 - Stealth Missile
6 - Arcata
3 - Rovic's Wealth

6th race:
7 - Hot to Trot
3 - Driven by Saarland
9 - Manchild

7th race:
7 - Conquer the Fear
2 - Buy a Personality
6 - Shot Gun Holiday

8th race, The Stymie Handicap:
2 - Researcher
4 - Brilliant Son
7 - Barrier Reef

9th race:
2 - Lights of Broadway
3 - Hedge Fund
4 - Double Or Nothing

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who's Sorry Now?

Last Friday the New York Post ran an unsigned editorial with a bizarrely conditional apology for the racist cartoon which ran in Wednesday's print edition and appeared on the Post's web site. The universal condemnation heaped upon the paper made the editorial board cede that the cartoon was interpreted by many as a "thinly veiled expression of racism." The editorial goes on:

"This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past - and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due."

Um... ok, but does this mean you're sorry, or not really, or just kind of sorry? In today's Post, Rupert Murdoch apologized a little more clearly. From the editorial:

"As the Chairman of the New York Post, I am ultimately responsible for what is printed in its pages. The buck stops with me.

Last week, we made a mistake. We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted."

It's helpful to put this newer, clearer apology into context with Murdoch's business interests. According to a New York Times piece published yesterday, Murdoch's personal love of newspapers is putting a significant drag on News Corporation's balance sheet. The company recently took a $3 billion dollar write-down on its newspaper unit, and its stock price is down by two-thirds in the last year, much more sharply than the media conglomerates that do not have a sizable newspaper division. Murdoch paid $5 billion for the Wall St. Journal, and it generated about $100 million in income last year. Oops. One can't help but wonder if his apology was motivated more by red ink than actual contrition - he can't afford to lose any more subscribers to or advertisers in any of his papers.

For his part, Sean Delonas, the picture's author, was unfazed. In a telephone interview with CNN, he said that the controversy caused by the cartoon was "absolutely friggin' ridiculous."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Paintings I Like, pt. 27

Pierre Bonnard, "Breakfast," 1930. Oil on canvas, 18" x 22."

It seems appropriate that the Met hung "Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors" in the same space as the 2008 Morandi exhibition. Besides a predilection for the domestic painted in close values, both artists share the following attributes:

1. They are not especially innovative.

2. They offer no critique of the art of their predecessors. Quite the opposite.

3. They make works of rare beauty.

4. None of the above renders the work insubstantial, frivolous, or merely decorative. Quite the opposite.

I think painters of today might pause for a moment to think about the implications of this list.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Starting Near the Bottom and Finding a New Low

Rupert Murdoch and The New York Post have never been afraid of the bottom of the toilet, but I have to say that even I was surprised by this one. There is no veil, however thin, for this image to hide behind. What else besides a brutally racist message could this cartoon possibly convey? It could be the cover image for a KKK newsletter:

The Post's editor in chief, Col Allan, defended it in this way:

"The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy."

This doesn't sound like a defense, so much as an admission of guilt. I worked in publishing for many years and know the drill - the thing that really struck me was the number of people who had to sign off on this in order for it to get in to the paper and on the web site. Many saw this cartoon and thought it was OK to publish.

There's been a good deal of speculation about the racist backlash that would come from the election of our first black president. And while I'm not surprised that many at the Post hold these views, I thought they were canny enough as an organization to try and keep it a secret.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, pt. 1

Not long ago, my studio-mate and I had a crit group over to talk about out current paintings. There were, including my studio-mate and myself, six painters, plus one photographer who started as a painter, one sculptor, and one civilian. At one point in my space, I was asked about the things I count as important while working. I rattled off a laundry list which included space, scale, part-to-whole relationships, color, and so on. One of the painters commented that these sounded like student concerns, and another pointed out that I seemed to be preoccupied with making good painting. I confessed that I did in fact want to make good painting, and the latter artist suggested that it might be better if I try to make bad painting. The topic resurfaced several times in both mine and my studio-mate's spaces.

And I've found this to be the case for as long as I can remember: there is a reflexive mistrust for painting to which any of the following can be be applied: beautiful, elegant, resolved, professional, good. It's a reflex that I often feel myself. The natural assumption is pictures possessing of these qualities must be facile, superficial, decorative, academic. And this is so deeply ingrained that suggesting a painter should intentionally make a bad painting doesn't seem unusual in the least. The painters who were in my studio are all artists for whom I hold a great deal of respect, and interestingly, most make works that are brought to a high level of finish. Yet, at least rhetorically, virtually all agreed that good painting was suspect.

So how is it that the label of good painting came to be viewed as a near-universal pejorative, even by painters themselves? It would be easy to pin this entirely on the major critiques of Modernism in the '60's and '70's: the postmodernist/feminist critique, which viewed quality as an arbitrary criteria enforced by the current power group, or Minimalism, that sought to undermine the concept of connoisseurship and and the importance of aesthetic decisions with a one-thing-after-another approach, or Pop, which adopted a smirking, mocking attitude toward the previous generation's attempts at sublimity. But for all his talk of taste and quality, one can find the origins of this attitude in Greenberg himself. Writing about Pollock in 1945, the critic said: "All profoundly original art looks ugly at first."

An obvious artistic response to the negative reactions associated with good painting is a simple one: make art that lots of people don't like, and/or art that is self-consciously ugly. No artist wants to be viewed as an entertainer or an academic, so there is a strong pull toward this seemingly counter-intuitive solution. Most would agree that making a challenging picture is more important than making one that's seductive. A surprising number also agree that these two attributes are mutually exclusive.

A Google search of the term "bad painting" results in a startling number of hits, suggesting that it's considered a style or school of painting. It begs several interesting and somewhat comical questions: What is the criteria of judgement? Should one seek out the most bad, or the least bad works? What are worst attributes of a given bad painting? Are these the best attributes (and vice-versa)? And perhaps most importantly: If a large majority people come to embrace bad painting, does it become good painting? Would the criteria of bad and good simply reverse via consensus?

These questions, along with the major critiques of painting and the explicit or implicit correctives they proposed, are among the things I intend to explore in subsequent installments of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." As always, feedback and suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Little Wise Guy

"Little Wise Guy," 2009. Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Aqueduct Results, 2/7/09

In today's third race, my choice to win, Little Wise Guy, was scratched, and my choice for second, Driven By Success, came in. If you're willing to let me count this one as a winning pick, it means I chose eight winners out of nine races at Aqueduct today.

Before you start applauding, however, take a look at the prices these horses paid; just about everyone in the park picked the same ones as me. Still, with these choices I was able to hit an exacta, a trifecta, a pick three, the late pick four, and my very first pick 6. It's not enough to retire on, but it was still a little thrill, backed up by a few crispy Franklins.

I also got to see one of the Derby hopefuls: Haynesfield looked rough and tough winning the Whirlaway by open lengths. It was a little like my handicapping of today's card, though - it looked great, and was sort of great, but with asterisks; he was beating up on some classy allowance horses and recent maidens, nothing like the stock he'll meet if he makes it to Kentucky in May.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Paulie's Picks, Aqueduct, 2/7/09

The weatherman is predicting a lovely day here in NYC tomorrow, so it's off to Aqueduct for Professor Paulie's first outing for 2009. Hooray!

1st race:
8 - Indy's Forum
9 - Sunday Sarah
2 - Chernobyl Princess

2nd race:
2 - More Oats Please
4 - Princess Maura
5 - Hooked on Money

3rd race:
7 - Little Wise Guy
1 - Driven by Success
2 - January Gent

4th race:
3 - Rovic's Wealth
4 - Defrereoftheheart
5 - Curvature

5th race:
1 - Another Hades
2 - Bob's Big Hope
4 - Doc Can Do

6th race:
8 - Haitian Sensation
1 - Futuristic
1a - Smart Tomcat

7th race:
1 - Raffie's Deer
8 - Sir Sapphire
7 - Future Prospect

8th race:
1 - Haynesfield
3 - Peace Town
4 - Mike From Queens

9th race:
8 - Karlita's Way
5 - Green Harbor
9 - Isyouis

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Thursday, February 5, 2009