Saturday, December 31, 2011


oddly enough, i'm feeling like i've gone down the rabbit hole but i only spent six months w/several brain-addled folks. alice or all her pills couldn't have helped much but we're hoping for a better new year.

i just chased this down after hearing about it. ms welch & mr rawlings(& if the sight on his ten gallon hat doesn't do it for you, someone needs to check your pulse) do it justice &, i think, improve on the original.

happy new year.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"big bags of sand/ until they came/
the flattering end/
of the world/
the gulls were swooping and gulping and filling/
the bags/
as helpful creatures everywhere were helping/
to end/
the world/
so we could be together at last one by one

there were some powerful ladies painting in ny city right at the mid-point of the 20th century. joan mitchell, jane freilicher, elaine de kooning, lee krasner, helen frankenthaler. i was first made aware of them through o'hara's poems. the testosterone fueled abstract expressionists wouldn't have made it easy for them to be taken seriously but, as the following article mentions, the next group of men were heavily "influenced" by frankenthaler's technique(& colors, which always appealed to me). of course, the real story is that noland & louis simply copied her & took the credit(since she was having a hard time being "shown" around town).

"Helen Frankenthaler, the pioneering American abstractionist, whose preferred technique of staining thinned paints into unprimed canvas became the hallmark of Color Field painting, died today at her home in Darien, Conn. She was 83.

Born to wealthy New Yorkers, Frankenthaler attended high school at New York's Dalton School (1945) and college at Bennington in Vermont, studying with Paul Feeley and graduating in 1949. In 1950 she met Clement Greenberg, and a five-year-long relationship with the influential New York critic ensued. Equally significant for the young artist was her friendship with the New York School poet and curator Frank O'Hara, whom she met in 1951 and remained close to until his death in 1966. Frankenthaler and O'Hara were among the brilliant artists and poets associated with Tibor de Nagy Gallery, directed in the 1950s by John Bernard Myers; she had her first solo show there in 1951. She was friends with all the major Abstract Expressionist painters, and in 1958 married Robert Motherwell. They divorced in 1971.

In 1952, following a trip to Nova Scotia, Frankenthaler produced her transformative painting Mountains and Sea (currently on extended loan to the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.) by applying thinned, delicately pigmented oils to unprimed canvas attached to the floor. She was not the first to use what she called a "soak-stain" technique, but artists prior to her had stained their canvases only selectively. Here, in combination with charcoal drawing, Frankenthaler deployed staining as her primary technique on a scale (the painting was 7-1/2 by 9 feet) that rivaled "first-generation" Abstract Expressionist colossi.

She notably departed from her predecessors, favoring an unfinished look, refined palette and overtly lyrical quality, as well as a fairly explicit conjuring of landscape elements. Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland saw Mountains and Sea in Frankenthaler's studio in 1953, and her stained canvases influenced them and other Color Field painters.

Frankenthaler disliked being identified as a "lady painter" (unlike Joan Mitchell, who used the sobriquet defiantly), though she was one of just a few female Abstract Expressionists to be critically noted from the start. She was given a retrospective at the Jewish Museum early on, in 1960, when O'Hara was still a curator there, and in 1969 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. A large exhibition of works on paper was mounted at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1985, and in 1989 she had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

She was also an important printmaker, experimenting first in lithography at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) in 1961, but exploring all print mediums at one time or another. Her most significant contribution was in woodcut, in which she grew quite adventurous, particularly in her collaborations with master printer Ken Tyler, with whom she began working in 1976. Using porous handmade paper and numerous blocks, Frankenthaler conceived over a dozen large-scale woodcut projects in which a subtle, dreamy painterliness defies the inherently graphic nature of the medium. There was a traveling retrospective of her prints at the National Gallery of Art in 1993, and, in 2002, a survey of her 23 woodcut projects at the Yale University Art Gallery and Naples Museum of Art, in Florida.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


not really a song of joy & peace, more like those rueful end of the year reflections we're all prone to subjecting ourselves to, ms mitchell was writing some potent stuff way back when. lynn & i saw her in tuscaloosa a few years after blue was released. she did a ton of new material that night & most of it didn't show up on albums for several years after. the only other performer i've seen do that was leonard cohen in atlanta. he did half a dozen new songs over the two nights we saw him & it took nearly 10 years for those songs to show up on official album releases.

this is my melancholy c'mas offering.
happy holidays.


i can't think of anything that represented action in the late 20th century more than a car. judging by the many commercials for the damned things on tv, it seems like it still carries that meaning, now semiotically. mid-20th century american painting was dominated by the abstract expressionists, pollock & de kooning particularly. theirs was an art defined by action, by drips & swirls & slashing smears. chamberlain just took that idea & made it 3 dimensional. i say "just" but it involved a big jump for sculptural art at the time & it operated on many levels. there was the tangential reference to de kooning but there was the implicit critique of consumerism & the rejection of the minimalist "object." duchamp's ready-mades were lurking in the background & maybe even a critique of the museum.

i think he came to the color much later &, personally, i like it. that first piece looks like what frank stella was putting on walls just recently.

many of the new college sculpture students apprenticed w/chamberlain. his studio was somewhere on the purlieus of a bad neighborhood in sarasota as i recall. according to a few of the new college students, chamberlain had many bad habits. the common idea was that he wasn't going to last very long. that was back in the 80s. he lasted a long while past all predictions to the contrary & i think his art will pull him along for a longer while still.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


sitting here on c'mas eve, w/a bad year behind me, i still can't complain too much about anything. i have my health(kind of)& ann & our beautiful cats. i've got some friends & only a couple of enemies & that's not too bad considering the wayward course my life has taken. like mr johnson's cat, carlton, w/death & darkness all around, it is finally our resolve to act & then acting that saves the day. i feel too young to die.

Monday, December 19, 2011


with etta james near to shuffling off her mortal coil, this news was not necessarily surprising but still a little sad. i started listening to ms evora during the last year or so of the outrigger. this song was the first song on the first album i owned by her, miss perfumado(1992). her music was beautifully intoxicating, delicate but alive w/an insistent rhythm. the band here does a fine job & her voice is a treasure to behold & savor.
i guess that annual rush of end of the year deaths has begun.

Friday, December 16, 2011


the reports sound bad. her condition is "terminal." apparently, there are some issues about her care(her two sons want her in the hospital, while it seems like she's in hospice care)but when she goes, she leaves chuck berry as the last living chess artist. if you think those chess recordings of hers were the last time she rocked or was relevant, check out her newest album, the dreamer, released just last month. christ, she moved me w/her version of a guns & roses' song. THAT is an artist.

this song was & still is electrifying. those horns just propel the song but it's her voice that closes the deal. the full range of her vocal textures reveal themselves as she importunes her way-ward lover to relieve himself of his burdens & offers to take them on herself. how could anyone resist?

i heard this song for the first time done by marcia ball at the maple leaf bar in new orleans eons ago. i remember being utterly floored by the simple but stunningly radical admission the singer makes. now THAT is love!, i thought to myself. i stuck w/marcia's version for a long time, mainly because of the fond memories of the maple leaf, nan, steph & joe & how astonished i was by the desperate kind of love the song invokes. ms. ball would be the first to acknowledge the superiority of ms. james' version.


by Richard Hoffman

What I have given to sorrow,
though I have poured out
all I am again and again,
does not amount to much.

One winter’s snows.
Two loves I could not welcome.
A year of mostly silence.
Another man I might have been

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Not Beyond All Conjecture

December 10th, 2011
John Ashbery

Oblivion scattereth her poppy, and besides
it’s time to go inside now,
feed the aggressive pets, forgive our trespasses
for trespassing against us.

Other times
monotony is like a cave, the air is fresh,
tedium tonic.

We lie in a museum of helpful objects,
leaning toward the accomplishment of a small,
complicated task, like sailors in rigging.
Something no American has yet achieved

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


philip used to sit in stair-wells & practice his guitar. of course, it was a way for him to meet tourist girls out on p'beach but i will say he always sounded good w/that echo amplifying his voice & finger-picking.

these girls sound pretty good too. neko posted: "wow! that just made me bawl my eyes out. what beautiful singers! i'm not worthy...holy god! they broke the shit out of my heart!" i remember watching neko cry when jesse winchester sang "sham-a-ling-dong-ding' on elvis costello's show. seeing beauty weep because of beauty is quite a sight to behold.

these are canadian school kids & this song really speaks to that experience in a lovely way. their school in peterborough ontario is being closed & this is a kind of protest.

here's where you can get that story:


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


their new album el camino is on my top albums list of 2011. they keep finding & exploring variations to their fundamental equation which adds depth & range while staying true to the original project. their unwavering devotion to that project is the first step on the visionary journey they began back in akron, ohio in 2001.