Thursday, June 01, 2023

updated a bit for added fun.

Artforum, 2003. 

Although he becomes only the eighth director in the seven and a half decades of the Whitney’s existence, he is its fourth in just over a dozen years. The board’s 1990 dismissal of Armstrong, who had led the museum since the early ’70s, was widely seen as a sign of newly powerful trustees making a break with the old guard. His replacement, Ross, a risk-taking and famously garrulous advocate of contemporary art, gave the institution a much-needed infusion of energy. But the Whitney’s increased visibility under Ross brought new scrutiny; it soon became the critics’ whipping boy—berated for “political correctness” for shows like the 1993 “Identity Biennial” (as it came to be known) and accused of succumbing to style over substance for its 1994 Richard Avedon exhibition.

I was looking for more old comments on Avedon. 

Michael Kimmelman from 1994. "If Mr. Avedon reminds me of any artist, it is Giovanni Boldini,..."

I lasted two minutes.

Kimmelman has a lousy eye. I don't think he realized how damning the comparison was. John Singer Sargent was a virtuoso, a brilliant technician and a failed composer of pictures. Boldoni was a hack illustrator. Avedon is better than that at least.

Artforum in the 90s was another world. I was there, and I forget. Picked at random and two articles about people from my past. The whole thing was corrupt and cynical, but the cynicism was still out in front, documenting itself. That honesty on "the NY scene" is almost unthinkable now.

May 1994, Rhonda Lieberman "Zen and the Art of Shopping, on Helmut Newton

The first two paragraphs and the last.

Recently, when I had reason to look at a lot of Helmut Newton photos, I underwent a reaction worthy of further investigation. Imaginarily disordered by the elixir of these fabulous images, not unlike Jerry Lewis turning into hipster Buddy Love in The Nutty Professor, I felt so glamorous that I went right into Bendel’s and found something on sale I never would have considered trying on, even venturing into the Fancy section, where I only go when I am feeling especially spirited, and handling really expensive pants. With a bit of reflection, my radical failure of sublimation, the palpable slippage between my enjoyment of the Newton photos and my urge to shop, began to seem less and less strange . . . but would others see it this way?

The conflict between Art and liking nice things has been noted by others greater than I. The intro to a volume of Stendhal’s travel pieces dismisses them as chiefly inspired by the author’s need, despite his 50-something years, to dress at the height of fashion (as if this put their literary merit in question!). Proust suspected Balzac, in his bourgeois novels of ambition, greed, and vanity, of indulging in the reader the very worldly tastes of which Art was supposed to purge you. I realize, through the years, that I have kept a mental file of Great Minds inordinately distracted by clothes and furniture. Kierkegaard was an interesting reverse case, trying to appear as the idle shopper and disowning his brilliantly tortured juvenilia Either/Or as written by someone else: he claimed he happened to find the manuscript in the drawer of a desk he had long coveted and finally bought from a furniture dealer after ogling it, and making daily visits to see it, for weeks, haunted. He describes the stalking process in familiar detail: “My daily route took me past this secondhand dealer and his writing desk, and I never let a day go by without fixing my eyes on it in passing.” In On the Genealogy of Morals, Uncle Friedrich makes short work of the question of one’s personal “interest” in the art object: he mocks Kant as a ridiculous prude for claiming that the Beautiful affects us precisely because it doesn’t affect us personally but appeals to our disinterest; he agrees with Stendhal, who saw in Beauty la promesse de bonheur, the satisfaction of selfish pleasures. Indeed, since galleries and museums are inevitably surrounded by nice stores, the experience of looking at Art has long been confused with shopping for nice things....

Reported on Page Six of the New York Post by Flo Anthony:

The authoress was sighted in the deluxe treatment program for acute mind-body aggravation at the Illinois Home for the Jewish Bewildered, in the exclusive Lee Krasner Memorial Wing, where she busily collects string and continues to dictate her column and to develop her profitable Psychic Whiners Hotline (celebrity spokesmodel Buddy Hackett). She is attended by her adoring photographer, her loyal bodyguard/handbag designer, her perky meditation coach, and fawning hospital staff who mercifully dress in last season’s Chanel and are required by contract to speed recovery by remaining at least ten pounds heavier than the client, like Vivian Vance on I Love Lucy. Her editor/manicurist commutes weekly from NYC to inspire her with rousing lectures on Femininity and Aggression, and makes sure her apartment is free of dust.

Every morning, radiant after thighmastering, she works on her big hook (the one they’re all waiting for!), Identity: Pro or Con?, set in a dry-cleaning store in New Haven, Conn. One of the highlights: just one week after a lobotomy, the heroine wows her audience by delivering a stunning paper on cross-dressing as it subverts culturally constructed gender roles. Snatched up in a record 20 minutes by Yale University Press, the book has already created a startling buzz in the publishing world, the immoderate advance explained only by its uniformly giddy assemblage of unexpected allies including Suzanne Somers (“A fresh approach to the subjectivities of mass culture. It’s great!”), Gloria Steinem (“It did wonders for my self-esteem!”), Slavoj Zižek (“I laughed. I cried. It was better than Cats!”), Harold Bloom (“I keep it in my bathroom!”), and William Buckley (“I love the part about the Jews and the sailboat!”), whose tear-stained reader report gushed, “I keep it with me at all times. One of the most moving and inspiring first-draft manuscripts that I have ever read . . . the drama proceeds savagely, erotically . . . I now read Rhonda daily, there is wisdom on every page.”

In 2014 she's writing for The Baffler, and 2019 The New Republic


In the late 90s, a 40 year old woman, a well known artist,  told me me everything she'd learned about being a woman she'd learned from drag queens. The switch is important: from the artifice of femininity built out of biology and culture, out of necessity, to an art built out of fantasy—from representation to mannerism—and then returned to the source. 


What’s on the menu?” asks Kissinger, and I can barely restrain myself from shrieking, “What’s on the menu, Henry? Would that be Operation Menu?” 

It all brings back memories of sitting in the basement at the Gramercy Park Hotel listening to Joey Arias channel Billie Holiday.

Lorentzen on Martin Amis in the Financial Times

What magnificent prose and what a peculiar personality underneath it. Amis wrote a long feature on the pornography industry for Tina Brown’s Talk Magazine in 2001 and only at the end confessed to his horror of seeing pricks on screen. He made a speciality of low-life subject matter but he was always a bookworm, always a literary critic, at heart.

"Prick" and "dick", because "cock" forms the mouth into an orifice. The displaced/transposed O: "horror of seeing pricks" for "fear of seeing cocks".

His heroes across the Atlantic were Saul Bellow and Vladimir Nabokov, but the American writer that Martin Amis — who has died aged 73 — most resembled was Norman Mailer.

Because Lorentzen is unable to say "Hitchens".  Mailer himself said he was less a reader of literature than a practitioner of it.

Lorentzen, and n+1, etc: the literary culture of gentrified Brooklyn in post-9/11 New York; inward-looking, earnest, provincial.

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