Wednesday, August 31, 2011

George Hofmann on

My friend and teacher, George Hofmann, wrote a nice piece for about the blogs he reads. No Hassle at the Castle was featured, along with Henri Art Magazine, Immaterial-Culture, Two Coats of Paint, and Joanne Matera's Art Blog.

Special thanks to George and David Cohen at Artcritical!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Paulie's Picks, The Travers Stakes, 8/27/11

Here in NYC, Mayor Bloomberg is outlining his evacuation plans in case we get really beat up by Hurricane Irene this weekend. But up in Saratoga Springs tomorrow, the forecast is 82 degrees and mostly sunny, a perfect day for the Travers Stakes! My biggest concern for the impending storm is that power and/or cable will be knocked out, preventing me from watching the race, and more importantly, getting my bets in.

The Travers looks competitive this year, and there are some square prices to had in the morning line. I like Coil, who won the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth from off the pace, but can also win on the front end - that kind of versatility is rare. Speed has been playing well at Saratoga this summer, though, and the one pure speed horse is Shackleford (shown above winning the 2011 Preakness). He's opening at a very generous 9-2; I'm assuming that the track handicapper gave him those odds because he's marooned in the outside post, but if Castanon can pilot him over to a nice spot nearer the rail in the early strides, he could run off with this. If he gets bet down to 5-2 or less, I might change my vote, but he's my horse tomorrow. I think Coil will place, and as much as I'd like to round out the Trifecta with a longshot, it's hard to ignore Stay Thirsty's graded stakes resume - he's a narrow favorite, and that's not a bad call (even though I'm not playing him to win). So my trifecta looks like this:

10 - Shackleford
7 - Coil
9 - Stay Thirsty

Also of interest is the return of Uncle Mo in the G1 King's Bishop at 7 furlongs . The colt was the presumed favorite in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, but was sidelined with liver problems after a disappointing third-place finish in the Wood Memorial. The fact that his connections decided to bring him back in this race as opposed to the main attraction seems odd - Uncle Mo is not known as a sprinter and has no graded stakes experience in sprints. I guess they know more about horses than me, but I'm still going to bet the speedy Flashpoint who has a nice spot on the rail and a reasonably generous opening line of 5-2.

Providing I have cable, electricity, and an apartment, I will post results and video tomorrow night.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Paintings I Like, pt. 70

Cy Twombly, Academy, 1955. Oil-based house paint, lead pencil, colored pencil, and crayon on canvas, 75" x 95."

Cy Twombly, Tiznit, 1953. White lead, oil-based house paint, wax crayon, and lead pencil on canvas, 54" x 75."

Cy Twombly died this past July, and he belonged to a somewhat special category of 20th-century painters that I've been thinking about quite a bit of late: painters who used the language of abstraction, but were not making Modernist paintings.

Taken as a group, they're styles were all over the map, but the common thread (at least in my mind) were refusals, either conscious or unconscious, to abide by one or more of the dogmatic aspects of Modernisn: purity, flatness, pictorial autonomy, utter abstraction, and so on. Feeling weighted down by these things doesn't seem like much of an issue today, but after Cubism and throughout much of the twentieth century, you were risking permanent obscurity with such an approach. Many artists who reached the end of their rope with Kantian purity either dropped abstraction, like Guston, or more commonly dropped painting altogether - many of the early minimalists, and video and performance artists started off as painters.

In Twombly, the language of Ab Ex is still plainly visible, but it's clear even on the most cursory examination that it's not Ab Ex - the calligraphic loops punctuated by bits of actual writing and bathroom graffiti, the strong reference to children's art, the chalkboards, the later flowers, and so on. It's a language not based on rejection of existing norms, but on the personalization of those norms.

Not surprisingly, many of the artists I'm thinking about either didn't live in New York, or, like Twombly, chose not to. In terms of advanced art in the middle of the twentieth Century, Italy (where Twombly spent much of his adult life) was tantamount to Gilligan's Island. But away from the chatter of the New York art community, he was able to develop this highly personal approach.

My roster and thesis for this special list of painters is still a developing entity, but rather that prepare a lengthy essay, I think I'm going to flesh it out a little at a time in the P.IL. series - check back for more.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

2011 Spa Recap

I'm sad to say that I didn't get my annual pilgrimage to Saratoga this year, but thank heavens for internet gambling! I'll still be able to play next Saturday's Travers Stakes, the famous Mid-Summer Derby, from the comfort of home. Tune in for a race analysis later this week.

This seemed like a good time to do a recap of a few of the big stakes races that have taken place at the Spa so far this summer:

On Saturday, July 30, trainer Chad Brown scored his first Grade 1 win as Zagora took down the Diana Stakes at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf. She loped through a slow pace in mid-pack before unleashing her girl power in the stretch. Javier Castellano was aboard.

The very next race was the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, and Javier Castellano jumped off Zagora, hopped on to Stay Thirsty, and won in nearly identical style. This puts Stay Thirsty squarely on the Travers hopeful list.

On Saturday, August 6, filly Turbulent Descent made it look easy, winning the Grade 1 Test Stakes by open lengths. The fractions were soft, but she wasn't. David Flores was the pilot.

In the next race, 2011 Met Mile winner Tizway took advantage of a speed duel and cruised to victory in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap, winning by three-and-a-half lengths. Rajiv Maragh was in the saddle.

And on Saturday, August 13th, Winchester took down the Grade 1 mile-and-a-half Sword Dancer Stakes with true grit, going from last to first in the lane (shown above). Cornelio Velazquez was aboard.

Wow, so much racing! Just typing it all up has me exhausted!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Corio Interview on NY Arts

There's a short interview with Paul over on NY Arts Magazine. Special thanks to John F. Moore and Jason Stopa for making this happen!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Two German Philosophers Walk Into a Bar...

Yesterday's post about Kant and the sublime would tend to advance the myth that Kant was an overly serious guy. Not so! At the end of the "Analytic of the Sublime" in the Critique of Judgment (1790), he explains in Kantian detail how jokes work, and provides a few examples from his personal arsenal:

"In the case of jokes (the art of which, just like music, should rather be reckoned as pleasant than beautiful), the play begins with the thoughts which together occupy the body, so far as they admit of sensible expression; and as the understanding stops suddenly short at this presentment, in which it does not find what it expected, we feel the effect of this slackening in the body by the oscillation of the organs, which promotes the restoration of equilibrium and has a favorable influence upon health.


Suppose this story to be told: An Indian at the table of an Englishman in Surat, when he saw a bottle of Ale opened and all the beer turned into froth and overflowing, testified his great astonishment with many exclamations, When the Englishman asked him, "What is there in this to astonish you so much?" he answered, "I am not at all astonished that it should flow out, but I do wonder how you ever got it in." At this story we laugh, and it gives us hearty pleasure, not because we deem ourselves cleverer than this ignorant man or because of anything in it that we note as satisfactory to the understanding, but because our expectation was strained and then was suddenly dissipated into nothing. Again: The heir of a rich relative wished to arrange for an imposing funeral, but he lamented that he could not properly succeed, "for (said he) the more money I give my mourners to look sad, the more cheerful they look!" When we hear this story we laugh loud, and the reason is that an expectation is suddenly transformed into nothing."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kant and the Sublime

At the end of the 18th century, Kant, like Edmund Burke shortly before him, determined that poetry was the greatest art because it had the best ability to evoke a sense of the sublime. Both philosophers reasoned that painting was at a disadvantage in this regard because of the need to faithfully depict real objects in the world. Burke: "To represent an angel in a picture, you can only draw a beautiful young man winged [...]."

Neither could predict abstract painting, though. In his "Analytic of the Sublime" from the Critique of Judgment (1790), Kant's explanation as to why poetry was the greatest art can easily be applied to the best abstract painting:

"It expands the mind by setting the imagination at liberty and by offering, with the limits of a given concept, amid the unbounded variety of possible forms accordant therewith, that which unites the presentment of this concept with a wealth of thought to which no verbal expression is completely adequate, and so rising aesthetically to ideas. It strengthens the mind by making it feel its faculty - free, spontaneous, and independent of natural determination - of considering and judging nature as a phenomenon in accordance with aspects which it does not present in experience either for sense or understanding, and therefore of using it on behalf of, and as a sort of schema for, the supersensible. It plays with illusion, which it produces at pleasure, but without deceiving by it; for it declares its exercise to be mere play, which however can be purposively used by the understanding."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Even Marked Up, Luxury Good Fly Off Shelves

Nordstrom has a waiting list for a Chanel sequined tweed coat with a $9,010 price. Neiman Marcus has sold out in almost every size of Christian Louboutin “Bianca” platform pumps, at $775 a pair. Mercedes-Benz said it sold more cars last month in the United States than it had in any July in five years.

Even with the economy in a funk and many Americans pulling back on spending, the rich are again buying designer clothing, luxury cars and about anything that catches their fancy. Luxury goods stores, which fared much worse than other retailers in the recession, are more than recovering — they are zooming. Many high-end businesses are even able to mark up, rather than discount, items to attract customers who equate quality with price.

“If a designer shoe goes up from $800 to $860, who notices?” said Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at the consulting firm Kurt Salmon, and the former chairman and chief executive of Saks.

The above, including the headline, is from a story in the New York Times which ran two days ago, on August 3, 2011.

Since Reagan's first term, U.S. economic policy has aggressively catered to rich people, corporations (with a strong emphasis on defense, pharma, and energy), banks (with a strong emphasis on investment banks) and insurers. Tax cuts and deregulation topped the list of priorities, but direct subsidies, lucrative government contracts, union-busting, and the privatization of drug and space technologies which were researched with public money have also been part of the program.

The rationale has always been that prosperity at the top would result in greater opportunity below. It was called "trickle-down" during Reagan's campaign and presidency, but it was also called "voodoo economics" by George Bush, Sr. while he was still running against Reagan for the 1980 Republican nomination. Neither of these terms (especially the latter) are in use now, but the trickle-down argument was the exact same one that John Boehner and the senate Republicans used during the recent debt ceiling debate.

To be clear: trickle-down had no historical precedent. It was implemented based on a purely theoretical model starting in Reagan's first term and continued relentlessly through Bush Sr.'s presidency. There were few rollbacks in the Clinton years - yes, he raised marginal tax rates, but he also signed Nafta and the overturning of Glass Steagall, paving the way for the mortgage mess. Bush Jr. picked up deregulation and tax reduction like a man possessed, and much to the distress of the political left, Obama has done little to stop the bleeding.

An economic theory with no precedent was sold to America thirty-one years, and what has been the result? Four major stock market convulsions, each resulting in massive job losses and devastated retirement accounts. Real wages at historic lows. Massive unemployment. A systematic destruction of the nation's manufacturing base and export of jobs to countries where wages are even lower. The Tea Party, who think they can improve the situation with more tax cuts and deregulation. And, for a fortunate few, $860 shoes.

I started writing this before the stock market began yesterday's plunge. If this turns out to be more than just a correction, it will be the fifth stock market panic since Reagan's first term, and the resulting pain will, as always, be felt most acutely by the middle class and the poor.

Obama, can you spare some hope and change?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011