Thursday, April 28, 2005

Art attack

We're learning about the 1950's in history class right now. I was excited because I have quite a soft spot for the black rock of the '50's and also the Beat movement, but apparently I'm the only person. Actually, I take that back. There was one other girl in my class, Kate, who is quite a fan of the beatniks, and we were talking breathlessly about Kerouac for a while ("...one long scroll, three days, he wrote it on amphetamines and you can tell...football scholarship!...the observer of the Beat generation...he'll have four dollars and he'll just go...") before our teacher shut us up.

I like learning about the '50's--the suburban movement is unreal, the ads, the movies (James Dean! Marilyn Monroe!), the music (Matt next to me commented that he always confuses Buddy Holly and Billie Holiday. "Blasphemy!" I exclaimed. He went on to quote Clueless: "--Do you like Billie Holiday?" "--I love him!"), the literature, the politics... I'm so glad we're finally moving into the second half of the 20th century in history class. If only my classmates were excited about it too!

Apathy really bothers me. Today I was reading an old issue of The New Yorker in school and when I was in Spanish class, I had reached an article on Basquiat. In an analogy comparing Basquiat to Rimbaud, there was a quotation from Rimbaud's 1873 work, "which gave exalted, hilarious, altogether uncanny voice to teen-age narcissism":
My turn now. The story of one of my insanities...What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright-colored prints, old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings...I dreamed of Crusades, voyages of discovery that nobody had heard of, republics without histories, religious wars stamped out, revolutions in morals, movements of races and continents...I invented colors for the vowels!—A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green...I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.
I thought that was just fantastic. I showed it to a few people, commanded: "Read this," but the responses were generally-- yep--apathetic. "Ehh?" people would say with furrowed brows, "I don't get it." I wanted to say, "You're not supposed to get it, you ought to just get it!" but I didn't think most people would understand what I was trying to say.



Regardless, this article made me want to read some Rimbaud and, even more, see some Basquiat paintings in person:
...He brought lyrical truth to a movement that swam and, ultimately, drowned in facetiousness...what Julian Schnabel performed with operatic bombast, David Salle with theatrical gall, and any number of others with academic irony, Basquiat brought off with spontaneous conviction. Whatever historical modes stirred him—Expressionism, “primitivism,” art brut, Pop—lived anew, for a spell, at his hands...Meanwhile, his unhappy story gave a fresh, perhaps valedictory turn to the myth of the poète maudit, a revelatory, self-immolating figure of terrible delight.
Basquiat's art sort of reminds me of Cy Twombly or Keith Haring--graffiti-esque, with cubist and African influences, and the best colors and lines. It also has that collage or overlapping sense of one thing being built on top of another, one thing painted atop another until it's just right. Even if they are paintings, they don't seem two-dimensional. I need to see these in person!



Speaking of art: this evening I went to see Christo (the guy who made the Gates in New York this winter) speak at the MFA; Jeanne-Claude couldn't be there because she'd hurt her back, but he was fantastic. That accent! That hair! Those hands!--and most of all--That mind! I won't recap the whole event, since I'm sure you've all had enough of my amateurish art rambling, but I do admire him more than ever. They spend all their money on installing ephemeral art--each installation only lasts for two weeks--and why? Just so they can make something beautiful that will make people look and think and smile. What mission in life is there, other than that, really?


(This is Christo with Jeanne-Claude)

His and Jeanne-Claude's next exhibition is going to be a covered river in Colorado, where you'll be able to see the cloth from above but also raft or kayak below it and look up at the sky through the cloth. It's supposed to be in summer 2008, which means I'll be old enough to volunteer with the set-up. See you guys there!

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