Wednesday, August 30, 2006

schjeldahl on klimt, zp on aerin lauder

It's no secret that I don't actually hate Schjeldahl. And I'd love to know how to pronounce his name. His essay on the Klimt at the Neue Galerie in the July 24 issue was particularly sharp. Thus:

"Klimt made serious art of frankly decorative aesthetics, in service to a reigning aristocracy of wealth and sensual indulgence, and his greatness is secure partly because no subsequent, first-rate talent or comparable milieu has arisen to rival its terms. Klimt and his world remain marginal to the battered but still persuasive avant-gardist chronicle of Western modern art: roughly, Paris to New York, and Cubism to abstractionism, with special status for futurism, Dada, Russian Suprematism and Constructivism, Dutch de Stijl, and Surrealism."

So he leads me to wonder, "For what very interesting cultural reasons would we now be interested in Klimt's decorative aesthetics still marginal to ye olde avant-garde?"

But then he slips in a little jibe:

"The purchase of “Adele” tests the possibility—ever less to be sneezed at, these days—of rewriting art history with a checkbook."

Interesting cultural reasons, bah! How could be so naive, little zp? You of all people. Remember:

"On varying scales, such manipulation has been a regular feature of the art game in the century since the Machiavelli of dealers, Joseph Duveen, in order to boost his trade in Old Masters, was said to have bullied a seller into accepting more payment from him than had been asked. But attempts to make self-fulfilling prophecies of publicized prices have never seemed more a participatory sport than they do today—among collectors, auction houses, and dealers. (Lauder sometimes sells works from his collection at auction.) Money talks, always. Lately, it roars, drowning out other measures of comparative value, among them the humble sentiments of critics, curators, and independent scholars."

All these quotes actually follow one another one right after the next, and that's why I like the review. Short, but very very descriptive, both of the work* (that part I didn't quote, but it's here) and the purchase.

"A rule of gold uniquely befits the art business, whose material goods, by any criterion that is not strictly subjective, are worthless. And no chemical analysis can sort out, in a given sale price, a ratio of considerations that may include honest judgment, heartfelt passion, and competitive exigency."

This is weaker, though. The first sentence I can't figure out what he means, exactly, and the second I'm not sure I want to.

"Plainly, a decisive factor for Lauder is his devotion to his institutional scion, the Neue Galerie. However the publicity haloing 'Adele' affects the expensiveness and prestige of Austrian modern art, it certainly escalates the prominence of the museum, which, to date, has been less well attended than its consistent excellence deserves. (It is miles above the class of Huntington Hartford’s short-lived Gallery of Modern Art, though that 1964 folly, on Columbus Circle, promoting the supermarket heir’s anti-modernist taste, can’t help but come to mind as a precedent.) I met Lauder by chance at the Neue Galerie, days before the opening, and remarked that, thanks to “Adele,” the intimate place may soon have a crowd-control problem. He replied quickly, 'I hope so!'"

Very tidy. Like most of Schjeldahl's reviews, this makes me not only curious to see the work, but to see the setting in which it has been exhibited.

Except for this complication, via the Gothamist. Oh, little naive zp. It costs $50 dollars to see it. There's an image there too; blogger photo was taking forever.

*Also, this is funny because, of course, Adele looks sort of like Aerin Lauder before she got that tepid nose job. I mean, if she did get a nose job I have no idea but I remember she used to look way more striking. Her hair was darker too. Or maybe I'm actually thinking of someone else altogether . . .

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Monday, August 28, 2006

smarts. fiction Aug 7 and 28.

Both Richard Ford's "How Was It to Be Dead?" (Aug 28th issue) and Edward Jones' "Bad Neighbors" (earlier) adhere to the formula described here, by Mary Burger. Or, if you want, here is the argument, the rest (follow the link) is proof:

"All New Yorker fiction pieces stop at the point where the person makes a bad discovery about himself or herself or the world. That he is or she is a failure personally—in love, usually, romantic love or familial love—or that the world is a failure toward his personal or her personal sensitive nature—that the world is violent, that unequal distribution of power causes pain and unhappiness, usually to the less powerful, but sometimes to the powerful as well."

Burger argues that this works for the New Yorker's non-fiction as well as fiction and I'd agree. "The melancholic condition of privileged passivity . . ." Now that's harsh, honey.

But I like the way "Bad Neighbors" has a series of sort of dramatic and emotional high points, which feels sort of like tightly bound knots, before the final realization thing.

And I liked the snide, seedy, hilarious tone of the narrator (Frank) in "How Was It to Be Dead?" Especially here, where I think he's sort of mocking Frost and his manual labor, "Something there is in humans that wants to make sure you're doing something busying at the exact instant of hearing unwelcome news - as though if your hands are full you'll just rumble right on through the whole thing, unfazed." (61) Who really says "something there is" unintentionally? And within the context of the narrative, the reference is a little more pointed - he's feeling threatened by another man (Wally) in his wife's life.

I also kind of like the suggestion that Ford's fiction might actually be about Americans in Vietnam. Or rather, the story raises the question, "Where was Frank during the war?" He mentions, "many of my old classmates had gone to Nam like Wally and come back Democrats." Wally came back injured (hence his long disappearance, hence the story) and not necessarily a Democrat; that's unclear, isn't it? But did Frank not go? Did he not return a Democrat? Or did he? Or did he protest?

I also read Lahr on stagefright and Schjeldahl on Klimt, but that's for another time . . .

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

now, where was I?

sao paulo teatro municipal
Originally uploaded by zpa.
During my recent absence (after the kitsch but before the cable) I was in Brazil, in Sao Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro. I forgot my camera so I had to buy a disposable with real film and a flash. I thought this might produce something interesting in the way of photos, but it did not. After the freedom of all the digital photos you want, I felt inhibited. And everything just looks murky. When my travelling companions share their photos with me I'll post a few here and tell you all about the food. The rest of my, er, "atmospheric" Brazil photos are on flickr. Just click on the photo here and you'll find them all.

Monday, August 21, 2006

enviro-science-media cocktail, wilkinson on cod

An Inconvenient Truth. (Guggenheim, 2006)

"Dirty Jobs" On the Discovery Channel. Tuesdays 9PM EST.

"The Lobsterman." by Alec Wilkinson. The New Yorker. July 31, 2006

A concerned and observant citizen may notice changes in the local fauna.

"Dirty Jobs" Two out of two graduate students (I did a poll) have a huge crush on Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs. I learned about "Dirty Jobs, the new Discovery Channel series that profiles the unsung American laborers who make their living in the most unthinkable — yet vital — ways" during a week with cable TV and I really enjoyed this show. Rowe asks good questions and explains things well (how the hippo tank works) and he manages to balance curious and respectful without being too sensational . . . he seems cool and comfortable when he pitches in to help and he seems to do a nice job explaining what kinds of education and experience the "unsung American laborers" bring to their work. Did I mention this show is about "unsung American laborers" ?? Well, it is. How brilliant is that? The voiceover for the show says explictly that we rely on this labor for the things we enjoy, etc . . . never mind the ethics of hippos in cages, I'm being strategic here. Hold your horses.

An Inconvenient Truth. A stirring documentary about the making of a fact-filled powerpoint! A triumph of the dull! What were they thinking? Mr. Gore seems really invested in facts and the truth and what have you, but like the (unidentified?) Chinese girl says in the Q&A session, "What do we DO?" I understand about as much about the science of global warming as I ever did (maybe more, maybe less) and I understand the scientific imperative, but what can we do besides vote? Don't give me a few pointers for modifying my individual behavior at the close of the film; my generation grew up with a few pointers and they haven't helped whatsoever.

When Gore tries to introduce a moral imperative and an emotional appeal for fighting global warming, he falls a bit flat. World War II? 9/11? Exploitative and cliched already. Katrina and Mumbai floods? Millions of people don't live in Louisiana and/or Mumbai because they don't even want to see poor people.

Good points: I think the film really made it clear to me what we lose, as a public, as citizens, when we abandon rational scientific discourse. The whole smoking-cancer link as a "theory" rather than fact was great.

"The Lobsterman" No wonder people like the New Yorker.

"Fish scientists typically think that what fishermen know applies only to the behavior of fish on grounds the fishermen work and can't be applied to a species. Or they dismiss what fishermen tell them because it doesn't easily fit into the computer models the scientists rely on, or because they believe that in passing from one fisherman to another the accounts have been corrupted."

"Fishermen are scornful of scientists. 'A bunch of eggheads that don't know enough to tie their shoelaces, and ninety-nine per cent of them never saw salt water till they worked for the fisheries department.'" (58)

And so on and so on, until . . . Ted Ames, fisherman biologist, who combines interviews and oral history with population studies and a familiarity with the environement with a belief in the power of knowledge to manage and preserve species for commerical profit and sustainability.

In the words of a professor of marine biology, "'What Ted was able to do is use his background in science to turn the oral history that he knew from his childhood into something valuable to the scientific community. Everything he did, he did in a peer-reviewed, publishable way, and it was rigorous, but I bet you he knew the answer when he started." (62)

So I propose a new Discovery Channel show, starring and/or produced by Mike Rowe in which the host visits various communities across the US and talks to residents (not necessarily environmentalists but rather people like Ames and his subjects who live in and depend on changing environments) about the changes they have noticed in flora and fauna, air and water quality, temperatures, even development.

Then these issues could be put into dialog with studies at local universities or broader discussions of the consequences of global warming. I think a show like this could validate and explore lots of different kinds of knowledge and involve new and different voices in the environmental movement and even promote good science education and technological innovation on the local and national level . . . Anybody have a good suggestion for a name?

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Friday, August 04, 2006

8/14 kunkel on beckett, lemann on blogs

And, when the time comes, I hope you'll digest the August 14th issue as well. Let me know what's worth reading, what's worth skimming and what's worth leaving to rest on the coffee table. Comments, please!

UPDATE: I've added a few words on Benjamin Kunkel and Lemann in the comments. I do like that Kunkel says of Beckett, "It didn't hurt that he took a good picture." (85)

issue 8/7

I'm going to be gone for the next two weeks. But how about that August 7th issue? Please, discuss here! Links to your NYer related posts are very welcome.