Tuesday, June 30, 2009

paulcorio.com, v.2.1

I just redesigned paulcorio.com with more pictures and fewer words, please take a look. Feel free to contact me if there are any weird errors or conspicuous problems - I haven't tested it on all browsers.

New pictures will continue to make their debut here on No Hassle at the Castle, but the archive will be updated with pro photos once or twice a year.

Special thanks to the brainy and talented Chris Gabriel at trampish.net, who helped me quite a bit with my fledgling attempt at using javascript.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Freaky Friday

Today I saw the James Ensor show at MoMa, Michelangelo's supposed first painting at the Met (above), and yes, I stopped in at the Francis Bacon. By the end of the day I felt as though I had been to a comic book convention.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Paintings I Like, pt. 31

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Nets (ABCETO), 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 57" x 57."

Yayoi Kusama, like Francis Bacon, seems doomed to eternally have her work discussed through the prism of her her own life story. Reading the reviews of the Kusama exhibit at Gagosian and the big Bacon retrospective at the Met are essentially like reading biographies with occasional digressions into the discussion of pictures. But even then, these asides mainly serve to illuminate the more prurient aspects of the artists' tortured lives. This is a fate that they both by and large chose by wearing their tragic flaws on their sleeves; in Kusama's case, her psychological instability, in Bacon's, his sexual deviance. But there is a big difference between these two artists. If you made a decision to discuss only the art and not the maker, there would still be much to say about Kusama, and almost nothing to say about Bacon.

To be sure, Kusama has made some silly stuff, like the polka-dot self-portrait that greets viewers as they enter the Gagosian show. But those nets, those nets! She started making these in 1959, when a generation of artists were still figuring out what to do with the implications of Pollock's drip paintings. The "all-over composition," in which the pictorial field was arranged in such a way that no area of the canvas was more important than another, was being used by Frank Stella contemporaneously with Kusama, and would later be employed to great effect by the color painters like Jules Olitski, Gene Davis, and Ken Noland, and the op painters like Bridget Riley, Larry Poons, Richard Anuskiewicz, and Julian Stanczak. This conception of space and surface opened the door for the one-thing-after-another approach of minimalism, and Kusama's work, like Stella's, has to be considered an early model of the minimalist aesthetic. Kusama certainly made waves at the time, but not to the extent of the other artists mentioned above, and gender and ethnicity played a role in the second-tier reception of her top-shelf work. But look here, I'm digressing into biography.

Several of the nets on display at the Gagosian show have a new feature; the paint is thinned to varying degrees across the picture as opposed to the consistent impasto of her more typical net picture. The new pictures retain the ambiguous figure-ground relationships, in which either the nets themselves or the dots which make up the negative spaces can be viewed as mass or void. They also lose just a bit of the non-hierarchical reading of the "all-over" composition, not so much laterally, but in terms of perceived depth: the places where the paint is thinnest tend to recede and the thicker paint tends to proceed. This move toward a more representational mode yields surprising results: they breath in and out and can be read as photographic records of gauzy fabric in the wind or x-rays of microscopic organic tissue. They also look like abstract paintings; like paint on canvas.

She uses two color modes in the newer net paintings: either a close value complimentary or near-complimentary pair, or black and white. In both cases the thinned paint creates many levels of transparency which blend the net color and the ground color to varying degrees. The black and white pictures more aggressively court the afore-mentioned photographic reading, like in a David Reed, even though the figuration is not explicitly representational. The complimentary pictures tend to create the illusion of "film color," or the detachment of color from surface, in the areas where the net is more opaque. The thinned areas tend to recede in much the same way that representational pictures would, and the result is a picture that seems to exist both behind and in front of the picture plane in different areas. They are endlessly interesting to look at.

Gagosian Gallery is located at 555 W 24th St. in Chelsea, and the show stays up until June 27th. I highly recommend it. Feel free to skip the Francis Bacon.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

Paulie's Picks, Belmont, 6/6/09

Mine That Bird, above, asks: "Who, me?"

I, like many others, never saw Mine That Bird coming in the Derby. I, like many others, thought the Derby was a fluke and he would finish close to last in the Preakness. I, like many others, saw him closing on Rachel Alexandra at the line and realized he had actually come to hand. I, like many others, was late to the party at every juncture.

So I'm afraid my big Belmont Stakes analysis doesn't yield up anything especially original - I like the favorite and I like the the second and third choices to follow him home (the latter two in reverse order of their odds - bold on my part, no?).

The only horse that constitutes an interesting longshot is Flying Private, who rounded out the superfecta in the Preakness and posted his first three-digit speed figure - something many horses in this race have never done. I'll toss him into some gimmick bets and hope for the best.

Here are Paulie's picks for tomorrow's card (13 races!) at Belmont Park:

1st race:
4 - Borrowing Limit
9 - Blow Up
1 - Dixieland Star

2nd race:
6 - Much the Best
7 - Just Ben
3 - Speight of Hand

3rd race:
2 - Convocation
10 - Allrightsreserved
4 - Empirior

4th race:
2 - Expansion
4 - Uncle Indy
8 - Blazing Dynamo

5th race:
10 - Sette E Mezzo
3 - Get Stormy
4 - So It Goes

6th race, The True North Handicap, G2:
6 - Fabulous Strike
1 - Benny the Bull
2 - Silver Edition

7th race, The Just a Game, G1:
5 - Forever Together
8 - My Princess Jess
7 - Diamondrella

8th Race, The Woody Stephens, G2:
1a - Everday Heroes
8 - Hull
2 - This One's for Phil

9th race, The Acorn, G1:
8 - Justwhistledixie
7 - Dream Play
1 - Casanova Move

10th race, The Manhattan Handicap, G1:
1 - Court Vision
2 - Champs Elysees
12 - Cowboy Cal

11th race, The Belmont Stakes, G1:
7 - Mine That Bird
2 - Dunkirk
6 - Charitable Man

12th race:
6 - Globemaster
1 - Storm Hope
8 - Four Star General

13th race:
4 - Manchild
12 - Golden Guska
2 - Driven by Royal

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

2009 Belmont Stakes Post Positions

Post positions have been drawn for the 141st Belmont Stakes, to be run this Saturday at a big, bad mile-and-a-half. Super-filly Rachel Alexandra is out, so Calvin Borel is back on Derby longshot Mine That Bird. Borel will attempt to become the first jockey in history to win all three Triple Crown races on different horses. Below are the post postions and morning line odds, tune in on Friday for the No Hassle at the Castle race analysis.

1 - Chocolate Candy (10-1)
2 - Dunkirk (4-1)
3 - Mr. Hot Stuff (15-1)
4 - Summer Bird (12-1)
5 - Luv Gov (20-1)
6 - Charitable Man (3-1)
7 - Mine That Bird (2-1)
8 - Flying Private (12-1)
9 - Miner's Escape (15-1)
10 - Brave Victory (15-1)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Is An Artist, Anyway?

On the last day of classes this year, I asked my students to tell me exactly what an artist is, and they were predictably mute.

Obviously, it's a trick question. First of all, you have to account for the fact that anyone who is good at something is awarded the title of artist. It's the ultimate compliment for a competent craftsman: "My [plumber, tailor, cannoli maker, wedding planner, etc.] is a real artist." The extent to which members of wildly different fields aspire to be considered thusly accounts for the occasional drive to add the suffix "-ist" to job titles. I play the drums, and have heard all of the drummer jokes. Other drummers, weary of listening to them, ask to be referred to as percussionists, or more rarely and weirdly, "drummists." At some point around the turn of the century, art dealers, often viewed with much distrust, began to be called "gallerists." I'm quick to point out that the addition of "-ist" did little to burnish the reputations of arsonists or rapists, but that's another subject.

And even when you've eliminated the plumber and the cannoli maker (cannoliist?) from the list, it is still perfectly impossible to come up with an encompassing definition, even if you strictly limit the scope of the attempt to a specific culture and a specific moment in history. But people still try, and I'm so glad they do - there's always a kernel, something to be used and pondered even in the most wrong-headed of attempts.

By far my favorite is the one offered by Roger Fry in "An Essay in Aesthetics," first published in the New Quarterly in 1909, and then anthologized in Vision and Design in 1920. Below is my heavily adapted and paraphrased version, which I offered to my classes after posing the question that begins this essay.

If you were about to be hit by a truck or eaten by a lion, your reaction would be roughly the same as a squirrel's - you would, operating on pure instinct, try to escape death. But providing you survived, the aftermath would be quite different for you than it would for the hypothetical squirrel, who would simply go back to gathering nuts. You would tell other people about your experience. And you might invent a second lion, or change the setting. And maybe in the re-telling, you would wrestle the lion to the ground, or capture and rehabilitate him. You might invent any number of imaginative details which would take you further and further from the actual events, but would make the story more and more interesting to your listener.

This capacity is what Fry refers to as the "second life of the imagination." It's quite significant in terms of defining what makes us intrinsically human. Bears and apes can walk on two legs, dolphins and whales use what is apparently a sophisticated form of language, and beavers and bees build homes and live indoors. But there is no conclusive evidence that these, or any other animals have this capacity not only to recount experiences for others to enjoy, but to make up wholly new scenarios based on bits and pieces of experience and sensory data absorbed by the brain.

While all humans have this capacity for the second life of the imagination, some people are better than others at recounting and inventing things based on the stuff they find there. Those who show an exceptional ability to mine this data and present it in some form that others can consider and enjoy are generally referred to as artists.

I know that many will take exception to this description and point out any number of works, media, or individuals that it disqualifies. But as I stated at the outset, all attempts at definition are ultimately doomed to failure; none can be comprehensive. I still believe that it's a good idea to try, and I hope I haven't offended any gallerists, drummists, or cannoliists among my readers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Memory Hole

Paul Krugman's column in today's Times reminds us of the second-biggest federal bailout in U.S. history, which held first place until the current taxpayer-financed bailout took the crown. The similarities are striking, and the fact that it was twenty short years ago either shows how staggeringly little the banking and finance industry and the federal government have learned, or more likely the extent to which they were willing to ignore these lessons in the interest of making the smallest sliver of the population rich beyond it's wildest dreams. It's worth a small trip down memory lane, or more descriptively, the memory hole.

Savings and Loans (called Building and Loans in the early years) were conceived in the 19th century as non-profits designed to promote savings and home ownership. By the end of that century they had changed to a for-profit model, but their primary mission was still community-based. They saw their most successful period during the Baby-Boom years following World War II, with returning veterans starting families and buying homes in huge numbers. The so-called "stagflation" of the 70's, particularly in the wake of the energy crisis, coupled with the federal regulations on mortgage qualification, made it difficult for the S&L's to make loans, and many were facing failure.

Enter Ronald Reagan who saw government as the Problem and not the Solution (so why did he dedicate most of his life to participating in it, then?). He signed two major S&L deregulations in the early 80's: the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act in 1980, and The Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act in 1982. What these two laws did was to relax accounting rules, allow the S&L's to make riskier investments with no government oversight, and allow them to make mortgage loans to people who were at high risk of default. Um... does any of this sound familiar?

Between 1985 and 1990, Savings and loans began collapsing under the weight of bad loans, bad investments, and pyramid schemes which took advantage of lax government oversight. Of great interest were the collapse of Lincoln Trust, in which five U.S. senators were implicated; the so-called "Keating Five" included Senator John McCain of Arizona. The Silverado Savings and Loan Collapsed in 1988 after their director, Neil Bush, the son and brother of Presidents Bush and Bush, approved $100,000,000 in bad loans for two of his business partners.

Another story in today's Times talks about how banks are gearing up to fight the new list of finance regulations proposed by the Obama administration. And the beat goes on, all the way down the memory hole.