Monday, August 30, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Tepid Travers, Saratoga, 8/28/10

This year's running of Saratoga's biggest race, the Travers Stakes, looks like a pretty lackluster affair. Everyone's kind of slow, and even Super Saver, the winner of this year's Kentucky Derby, is kind of limping in. The good news is that without a dominant favorite in the mix there are some square prices to be had, plus there's a Pick Four (pick the winners of races 9-12) with a guaranteed pool of $1,000,000. I'm going to take a stab at that one, and here's what I'm going to play:

9th race, The Victory Ride, Grade 3:

There's a lot of speedy horses in this race, so I think there's going to be a pace meltdown. The two logical choices to finish when the speedballs poop out are Kid Kate and Katy Now, plus there's an interesting 20-1 shot with a closing style named Worstcasescenario. I'm going to use all three.

10th race, The Ballerina, Grade 1:

Similar logic as the last race - too much speed, look for the closers. Informed Decision is a decent favorite, and Jessica is Back runs speedy in long races, but closes in sprints - she won the Grade 1 Princess Rooney at 6 furlongs going away. I'm using these two.

11th race, The King's Bishop, Grade 1:

This is another race I look forward to, and like the Travers, it looks to be disappointingly slow. D' Funnybone and Discreetly Mine are the logical choices and have to be included. But there's an intriguing horse named Bank Merger that's only had two races and won both with style. Stepping him up to a Grade 1 race is a big jump, but he might turn out to be a super-horse. If he is, this will probably be the last chance to catch him at 8-1. I'm using these three.

12th race, the Travers, Grade 1:

Trappe Shot looked good running second to Lookin at Lucky in the Haskell and posted two triple-digit speed figures prior to that, plus he's got a stalking style which should work pretty well in this group. A Little Warm stayed right behind Miner's Reserve in the Jim Dandy and made a nice move in the lane; the same kind of trip is a distinct possibility here (especially since Miner's Reserve is also a contestant in this race). Super Saver has reeled off a couple of stinkers, but if he runs the same style he did in the Derby, he could pull this off. I'm using all three.

9th race: 1, 5, 9
10th race: 3, 4
11th race: 3, 4, 6
12th race: 2, 5, 11

A $1 base bet will cost $54 (3 x 2 x 3 x 3). I've certainly spent $54 on stupider things that that, and probably will again.

Incidentally, Rachel Alexandra will be racing on Sunday in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, and there's a special two-race bet to be had - a kind of two-day Daily Double: pick the winner of the Travers on Saturday and the Personal Ensign on Sunday for fun and profit. The Personal Ensign looks to be kind of a snooze with only five horses, but Rachel's had a sketchy year - she looks beatable. I haven't seen the charts for this, but apparently the big threat is Todd Pletcher's Life at Ten, who's coming off a six-race winning streak. I'm not going to take a piece of this action but I thought you should know about it, because I care about you.

Tune in tomorrow and Sunday for video and results.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

Dennis Bellone is a painter for whom I have a great deal of admiration, and has also become a welcomed guest columnist here on No Hassle at the Castle. Below is his response to my post on Carl Andre's Equivalent V from 8/21/10:

It is hard to believe looking back on the heady 60’s that Carl Andre’s work would have existed without the benefits once again of Clement Greenberg’s ideas about art and the work of Frank Stella, particularly his black paintings. It would be false to attribute Duchamp’s readymade concept as a prime source of conscious thought in the bricks of Andre, but it is also hard to imagine the bricks being exhibited without the readymade as an available concept.

The ‘primary forms’ of Andre are just that, primary forms. It can’t be reduced more beyond that without it becoming, and it did, the work of Joseph Kosuth.

The problem I have with this, I didn’t when I was a younger artist as it informed my education and background, was that this assumes a belief in art as having an evolutionary growth. This is a problem inherent in what I call Modernist Ideology, that society is moving towards some kind of utopian fictional future where all forms of the social, political and personal will somehow iron themselves out into a utopia wonderland. For Greenberg the emptying of art of its non-essential was part of his narrative description of modernism, this movement towards the picture plane being just that or as Frank Stella said “what you see is what you see.” What American post-modernists in the mid 70’s and 80’s reacted to was this narrative as the word of god that imbued the artworld and academies that Greenberg’s narrative posited. It was damn seductive and well packaged, meaning that Greenberg wrote a very convincing, compelling and descriptive prescription. To understand Greenberg and the narrative, though, one also has to ‘deconstruct’ his past. Greenberg was originally a Marxist and the theme running through the intellectual circles that predates him, and is rampant in modernist utopian thought, is that (western) societies are/were developing towards a future state of liberation, equality and fraternity. Were that it be so simple.

But then let me backtrack also, there is an evolution of art but not in the terms in which we think. The evolution is just the natural progression of a generation responding to the works of the previous generations and taking from them what it is that excites them. Where that evolution goes is anyone’s guess. The problem inherent in post-modernism is that it is the opposite side of the coin, modernism being the obverse. The coin in fact needs to be jettisoned as it provides inadequate support for the future and in my opinion, the reality of what art is. As an educational tool both sets of theories and those adjacent to it provide an entry point into understanding the development in western culture of arts function and place. Now what is left is art and marketplace economics, and this is not just arts problem, it is a societal illness that pervades every aspect of American culture in particular. If it can’t make money it has no value. We, as a culture are so bankrupt that even being ‘green’ is a marketable tool to make money. But that is another discussion regarding society, the future if there is one, etc.

Back in 1993 or 94 there was a show at Sonnabend Gallery on West Broadway of Fischli and Weiss. Upon exiting the elevator I was stunned to see what looked like a gallery in the middle of an installation of the upcoming show. Pieces of sheetrock, paint pails, paper cups, etc littered the gallery. I was tempted to get back in the elevator. Upon closer examination I realized to my surprise was that every ‘artifact’ was fabricated, from the ‘paper cup’ to the sheetrock, every last detail had been cast in rubber and then painted to look exactly like the model. It was, for me, a stunning tour de force. By replicating the reality to be reality and not be reality was such a supreme dislocating force that it made me hyper-aware of the day to day things I took for granted like the ubiquitous coffee cup with the classic greek motifs to the paint pails in my studio. Now Andre certainly isn’t playing within this realm to make us look at bricks (or steel plates, etc) as bricks. His is the endpoint in a Greenbergian modernist game of sculptures limit.

What fascinated me then and still does as an artist is wonder, is dislocation and suddenly seeing the world as it is, warts and all, as a mystery. Not some mystical wonderland but just a sudden being in the moment and seeing with fresh eyes, even if only temporarily, the world like a child, wow this cup is cool, it’s a cup and isn’t a cup a wonderful thing.

I think that most young artists in school have a liberal bias and want to change the world and challenge it, the academy supports this as most of the teachers were of and from the ‘post-modern’ era or late modernist era and the folks in the museum world also come from this milieu. Art though as political tool or weapon though is usually awful and preaches to the converted. It is no different than going to church and hearing the priest or minister rail against this that or the other to the congregation that is already in complete agreement. The museum is their or our secular church to a degree. The “institutional critique” as art is dead and has as much relevance as Andre’s bricks or a picture of the Madonna and child. The art going cognoscenti go to the museum to have their world confirmed and their sins absolved.

Ok, I am being a bit hyperbolic but what fun is writing without trying to be somewhat provocative? Art for me opens me up. Breaks down my illusions. It destroys briefly myself as separate from my reality. Going back to Duchamp and the aesthetic echo and eros, such is life; given Etant Donnes in Philly, one gets to look through the peephole and see something (life) that arouses us. We are being and becoming in the act and the circuit is complete when the artwork is received as such. This infrequent and brief experience is what I think excites us when we see something in an artwork that works, that makes us remember it, go to our studio and make something or to our journal and write about it. This moment is what can excite the bricks in the gallery or in the street, or can be in a Franz Hals or the trees glittering in the breeze. It takes a moment to suspend the disbelief and just see without blinders or thought or culture or….

Perhaps for that reason of late I find myself thinking about Cezanne in Aix or Van Gogh (not the arch romantic supposed paint eating stereotype), their independent search for an image of something that could embody that moment of clarity. Their thorough knowledge of art history of current art trends and their withdrawal to their private domains to seek what they felt was the ‘eternal essence’ in the world. But then call me romantic.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bricks and Other Subjects

Last month I taught a pre-college course at the Parsons School of Design, and one day we took the class to MoMA. While we were looking at Minimalist work, a sixteen-year-old student asked me to explain Carl Andre's Equivalent V to her. I told that it wasn't simply bricks stacked neatly, it critiqued the subjectivity that had always been taken as an article of faith in the making of a work of art - it questioned the ideas of talent, authorship, originality, skill, craft, and composition and asked if all these elements were a necessary precondition to a work being created, accepted and discussed as art. It was, in 1966, an aggressive, but not a radical gesture (Duchamp's Fountain was already 50 years old).

The young student listened to me intently, but confessed that even after considering all this, all she saw was bricks. I didn't get frustrated with her, because I looked down and discovered that all I saw was bricks, too. And I think this is the fate of a great deal of recent art made in the spirit of critique.

At this point in history, it is understood that the bricks are art, along with a dazzling array of things that would never be considered as such prior to the twentieth century. Now that the bricks have lost all power to pose difficult questions, all that's left is the art, and as art, there's not much to see - I think that few would argue that Andre's sensitivity led to bricks stacked more artfully than the piles one would find at a construction site, and besides that, his supporters would vehemently argue that this is beside the point. Once the gesture loses its power, so goes the art.

Art that questions the dominant standards of art is not new: Caravaggio, Manet, Monet, early Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Pollock, early Johns, and others all asked hard questions about what art could and needed to be. But after the questions were satisfactorily answered, all the artists on this list left something to be looked at and considered on its own merits - after the arguments ended, there was still art. That Caravaggio questioned the importance of the Greek ideal in painting is of relatively minor interest to me when I'm standing in front of The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. The idea that a Monet was once considered radical is now rather hard to believe, and doesn't really matter that much in the experience of looking at one of the Cathedral at Rouen paintings.

Institutional critique as a driving force behind contemporary studio and curatorial practice has been at hot topic here at No Hassle at the Castle of late. It's a default position for a huge amount of art and has been for a long time now - the last few Biennials, Younger Than Jesus, Greater New York, and the big fairs confirm that post-modernism still holds sway and perhaps more importantly, the grad programs have embraced critique as subject matter in their curricula (which is itself quite ironic). I think that in the very near future, much art made with these objectives is destined to look no more profound than a neat stack of bricks.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Paulie's Picks, Saratoga, 8/7/10

Superfecta Chan and myself are making our annual pilgrimage to the legendary Saratoga Race Course tomorrow. Hooray!

The feature is the G1 Whitney Handicap, and Quality Road looks like a looming monster - trainer Todd Pletcher has turned him into robo-horse this year. Check him out in the video above crushing the Met Mile at Belmont on Memorial Day and booking an eye-popping Beyer speed figure of 112 in the process. I'll be using him as a single in the late Pick 4, and if I'm feeling good and happy, I'll build a Pick 6 around him as well. Yippee!

Here are Paulie's picks for tomorrow's card at Saratoga. Look for results and video when I get back into town on Sunday night:

1st race:
6 - Pistols At Dawn
7 - Monsignor
1 - Quay Lime Guy

2nd race:
2 - High Prize
7 - Evenforever
3 - Thundering Roar

3rd race:
2 - Dougie
4 - Payout
7 - Hear the Footsteps

4th race:
6 - Enclosure
5 - Jaguar Paw
7 - Bank Heist

5th race:
7 - Tocco D'Oro
1 - Where Is 'em
4 - Jockey Ridge

6th race:
8 - Tiz Blessed
4 - Justin Philip
2 - Favorite Hour

7th race:
8 - Livin Large
10 - Prince Will I Am
1 - Yankee Empire

8th race:
10 - Ailalea
4 - Snow Top Mountain
1 - Ambitoness

9th race, The Test, G1:
5 - Franny Freud
3 - Champagne D'Oro
2 - Buckleupbuttercup

10th race, The Whitney Handicap, G1:
3 - Quality Road
2 - Blame
4 - Haynesfield

11th race:
10 - Talk Therapy
7 - Whateverittakes
5 - Gotta Go Round

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010