Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Time-Ghost: Art After Andy – The Biography of Andy Warhol by Blake Gopnik

Last Photo of Andy Warhol Alive (1987) by Peter Bellamy: “I was walking down Central Park West when I saw Andy Warhol being visited by the angel of death. She opened the door and got into the limo and they drove off, and the next day I read that he died.”

“Images, our great and primitive passion . . .”   

“The dream has grown gray. The gray coating of dust on things is its best part. Dreams are now a shortcut to banality. Technology consigns the outer image of things to a long farewell, like banknotes that are bound to lose their value. It is then that the hand retrieves the outer cast in dreams and, even as they are slipping away, makes contact with familiar contours. Which side does an object turn toward dreams? What point is its most decrepit? It is the side worn through by habit and patched with cheap maxims. The side which things turn toward the dream is kitsch.”
                                                                           – Dream Kitsch, Walter Benjamin ca. 1930.
Some artists loom so large on our cultural landscape that their shadow covers everyone who comes after them, and indeed, some heavyweights even obscure the very aesthetic horizon that they themselves helped to construct. The artists of the 20th century who can be said to be so influential and impactful, so important to the vernacular we use to even discuss art now, that their presence made possible the clearings in which whole clusters of others congregate stylistically can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. Naturally enough, which fingers depends on which hand, but after much consideration it seems plausible that a scant few were so gargantuan in their production of new visual values that one can literally trace the branches of the artistic family trees they planted.

On my own hand there are five such titans: Cézanne, Picasso, Duchamp, Giacometti and Warhol. I realize they all happen to be white male artists, but I can’t help that, even though I can with absolute confidence also proffer Frida Kahlo, Lee Miller, Louise Nevelson, Eva Hesse and Judy Chicago as exemplary exponents of a feminist ethos of nearly equivalent prowess. But they, like many other practitioners in either gender, tend to work in fields originally germinated by those first five I mentioned. So I apologize in advance to all my many feminist friends and accept full responsibility for the personal biases of my own critical judgments. We do what we can within the limited scope of our own frail faculties and hope to be forgiven for unintended oversights.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Harry Clarke: Breaking the Ice

Barrington Stage Company artistic director Julianne Boyd (left) with Mark H. Dold during rehearsal for Harry Clarke. (Courtesy Barrington Stage Company)

The mood at the Barrington Stage Company production of the solo performance Harry Clarke, which I saw over the weekend, was cautiously jubilant. As the ad campaign reminds us, this is the first live production in the United States since March, performed under a tent down the street from BSC’s home space in Pittsfield to a restricted, socially distanced audience that was ushered in slowly, temperatures taken at the door. The only unmasked people in the arena were on the stage: the artistic director, Julianne Boyd (who also directed the play), when she introduced the show with a speech – expected but not unwelcome – about the need for art in challenging times and reported that the company had put up the tent during the hurricane, and the actor, Mark H. Dold. I won’t underestimate how great it felt to be seeing live theatre again, whatever the special conditions may be under which it must be purveyed.