Saturday, March 13, 2010

On the subject of Alice Neel and her work, September 2000

This short piece was written in response to the Whitney Museum's amazing Alice Neel retrospective- one of the greatest art shows I have ever seen. An inexhaustable feast for the soul, I think I saw it a total of three times, each time falling in love with a different artist. Alice Neel was a phenomenon that you catch in smudges of simple unadorned paint. Like my favourite artists (Yoko Ono, Emily Dickinson, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, David Hammons, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Herzog, Gibbons, Johnson, Mike Smith, Twain, Cassavettes, Dylan... ), Alice Neel's works are totally conventional. Their power is the freedom negotiated with oil paint and the spirit between artist and model. So ancient, and yet so new!

this is the first public "printing"
ps forgive my spelling y'all. where's the spellcheck?


on the subject of alice neel and her work, september 2000, nyc

I saw the Alice Neel retrospective at the Whitney yesterday and it reminded me of my project. Stubborn, quirky, defiant, tenacious, elegant, soulful. I found it very overwhelming and indescribably complex.

I thought it appropriate to situate the show next to Barbara Kruger's work- a great contrast. Kruger is like an institution- mammoth and undeniable. Her work adopts a tone which is perhaps most appropriate to our age, and yet, especially walking through the Alice Neel show below it, I feel it gives me nothing.

I need nourishment. Food is not just a necessity but sexy and delicious. Barbara Kruger is McDonalds next to Alice Neel's culinary art. There is unfathomable strength in this observation and attitude. Cause what is life without these minutes? That is what an Alice Neel painting shows me- the minutes between the sitter and the maker. Pearls. All the harshness and savor and mystery you can muster honored, cupped, exploited and delivered onto a surface and presented in public. Easy to forget and essential to affirm.


A thought: me walking down the street with my child. I will call it my child - I will fight for it, care for it, protect it, respect it, challenge, cajole, and love it and yet there are worlds between me and it that are unbridgeable in difference. My own skin new and foreign as one snowflake to another. We're walking together down the street with an invisible canyon between us. And this is not only lamentable but precious and miraculous.

I also see this looking at a painting by Alice Neel.

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