Saturday, October 07, 2006
This afternoon I made it to the Klimt exhibit at Neue Gallerie, barely--it took me an hour and a half to get there on the train, I stood in line for twenty minutes, paid $15 (at least it wasn't $50), and stayed 10 minutes. It wasn't that the show was bad--how can Klimt be bad?--but that it was crowded, small, and I had other pressing engagements. It's kind of amazing, really, that they can pack the place for only five paintings, three of which were basically unremarkable. At least, they were remarkable when they were painted, but after three generations of plein-air, art-fair copyists, not to mention wallpaper designers, have done their insidious work, they're not anymore.
Last week I went to the Picasso and American Art exhibit at the Whitney, and took a lot of notes for a diatribe which I then put off writing, because writing diatribes about Picasso is getting increasingly depressing. What I mainly noticed was that a lot of the show reminded me of going through Soho, where street artists are selling kitsch on West Broadway (I have done this myself; I WASN'T selling kitsch, which meant that I did quite badly) and noting the gargantuan difference between original creativity and 'making a painting.' It was truly disheartening to note how many artists copied Picasso; they weren't 'influenced' by him, they just flat-out copied him.
In the case of a few, like Roy Lichtenstein, the results were a mild improvement on Stupidity As Usual, because they had to actually think about things while laying out an image. Most of them, however, got much, much worse. The Jasper Johns was particularly cringe-inducing. He just superimposed a standard Picasso-face on a failed Jasper Johns canvas. You see this in the hallway at art school all...the...time, as though putting a decal on a bad painting will somehow make it a good one. Oh, the eternal optimism of youth.
I am developing increasing respect for, or at least peace with, Jackson Pollock. Of all the lame-ass paintings in this show, his were the only ones which were actually producing some perceptible standing waves. The waves were sort of muzzy and dull, perhaps a by-product of alcoholism and semi-nihilism, but they were at least there. The Picassos had none, and neither did any of the copyists.
Recently I was rereading 'Light Emerging,' and came across a passage I hadn't paid much attention to before. It discussed the creative process as a 'pulse,' which extends itself from our core to the farthest reaches of the universe, and then contracts back in again. Our works of art act as 'highly-polished mirrors of self-discernment,' and as the wave contracts, it brings what we have learned in the process with it. Thus the end result of the creative process is not the work of art itself, but the distilled essence of our souls.
Most of us like it a lot when we're in the expanding/expanded state of creativity, and want to stay there all the time; we experience the inevitable contraction, contemplation and stasis, after the completion of a project, as depression and lack of productivity. But this is when a lot of the important work gets done.
It's difficult to look at an artist like Picasso without thinking that the state of Picasso's soul must be a real mess. I certainly wouldn't want that crap in my soul. What I notice most, now, about standing in a room full of Picassos and wannabe-Picassos, is that there's no light in any of them. They're all muddy, cerebral and flat. It crossed my mind, 'this is what would be on the walls in Hell.'
I think that a whole lot of modern art is all about attempting to get the hellish junk out of our souls, and not taking it back in again, but foisting it desperately and uncontemplatively on the world around us. It's not an accident that most Chelsea-type artists are too overbooked in their 'careers' to take a break for re-charging, meditation, and introspection. The whole paradigm is churn, churn, churn, produce, produce, produce, impose your 'vision' on the world so indelibly that it cannot be ignored. Most Chelsea artists, as far as I can tell, aren't too concerned about the state of their souls.
All this makes me feel better about the fact that I seem to be in a stage of relative creative quiescence, at the moment. One of the things I decided, while on vacation, is that my primary focus needs to be my healing practice, right now. I'm not very creative when I'm worried about going bankrupt at any second. Making this decision seemed to trigger a wave of business without me even having to do anything; a whole bunch of clients pre-paid and pre-booked as soon as I got back.
In fact, the very notion of showing right now, or madly trying to promote my 'art career,' makes me feel sort of sick, so I'm not doing it. I applied for a couple of NYFA grants, not because I think I'll get them, but just as a gesture of commitment and completion; now I'm going out more, reading more, and taking every bit of pressure off my mind to 'produce.' It will happen when it happens.