DAILY PIC: For the last couple of years, I’ve been looking at the mediocre art of the actor James Franco, and thinking there might be an element of brilliance in it. He provides such a generic, superficial version of contemporary art that it’s like what a genius set decorator might supply for a Hollywood movie about the Chelsea scene. Could it be that Franco’s entire art career has in fact been about him giving a brilliant theatrical performance as a generic contemporary artist – sort of like the one he played so well on General Hospital?
Franco’s appearance last night for a 20-minute book talk at PS1, the MoMA affiliate, made me have significant doubts. Klaus Biesenbach, PS1’s director, lobbed softball questions that, as he himself admitted, are what you toss out when you can’t think of anything else: What Web sites do you visit? What did you do after school when you were 14? And Franco struck out on every one, yielding zero insight into why he makes art, or why we should care. He came across as what he may just be: A self-regarding Hollywood starlet who thinks that a career as an artist, however part-time, will somehow yield cultural status. When the audience started tossing out some tougher questions, Franco beat a panicked retreat.
DAILY PIC: The problem with staring at an old chestnut like “The Scream” – since last night, the auction world’s record holder – is that it takes too much work to think or feel anything fresh. (I wrote about my final encounter with the Munch in today’s Daily Beast.) That’s why, at the same Sotheby’s preview where “The Scream” was on view, I got way more pleasure from doping out this utterly obscure abstraction painted in 1914 by the absolutely unknown Belgian futurist named Jules Schmalzigaug. He seems to have been in almost on the ground floor of modernism, but somehow he fell through its cracks. Schmalzigaug committed suicide in 1917, when he was only 34, but instead of that tabloid death launching him to fame, it cast him into oblivion. One more thing: Schmalzigaug’s piece is on sale in today’s afternoon sale, with a high estimate of only $350,000, so there’s still a chance to nab it before his stock rises. (And I’m not even asking for a cut.)
[A] well-heeled crowd… gathered Tuesday evening for a first and probably final chance to take in the picture, before its disappearance into some billionaire’s vault. In the measly half hour that I spent drinking in this “masterpiece” at close quarters, almost no one joined me for more than a minute or two, and most spent less than 10 seconds.
Our art critic takes a last look at Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream.’
A pornographer (who’s made such hit films, as, say, Hollywood Scat Amateurs #10) is battling obscenity charges in court by saying he’s an artist. The question, then: is porn art? Let’s put ourselves in the jury members’ shoes…
It’s 8 a.m. in downtown Los Angeles, and the 16 people in the jury box at the Edward R. Roybal federal courthouse are watching a film of two women smearing themselves with feces. At least some of them are watching, anyway. One woman is focused intently on wrapping and unwrapping a tendril of hair around her finger. Another, a 40-something woman with a Carol Brady flip, stares poker-faced at the screen. Most of the men just look away.
Across the room, Ira Isaacs, the 61-year-old producer of the film, which is titled Hollywood Scat Amateurs #10, bobs his head along with the music in the opening credits.
In the video, Isaacs speaks to the women from off-camera. “Not so bad after a while, is it?” he says as he hands one a dark spoonful. The women giggle like kids playing with finger paint—as though they can’t quite believe someone, somewhere is getting off on this.
But despite the laughter, the women can’t stifle a gag here and there. One balks at the spoon and shakes her head. That’s more reaction than the jury, now in its second day of screening films, is able to muster. As she ultimately takes the spoon and puts it in her mouth, no one in the jury box bats an eye.
Our eyes are nervously twitching after this one…
If Porn Isn’t Art, Does It Still Have a Right to Exist?, The Daily Beast
Daily Pic: There’s at least one thing in common between Edward Weston, the great modernist photographer, and Walt Whitman, the proto-modernist Romantic poet: They both can feel a bit overripe. In 1941, however, when Weston was asked to illustrate Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” it brought out the best in both. Westman’s images, more four-square than usual, feel as committed to the American scenes they show as to how they look as photos; the poems also seem to care about those scenes, now that America’s set plain before our eyes, and seem less caught up in the words used to describe them. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is soon to launch a show of the Weston/Whitman project’s images and outtakes, and I’ve compiled a selection of them at TheDailyBeast.com. (Photo courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Over the last few years of his life, as his mall-art empire sank into bankruptcy, Kinkade’s persona as a born-again believer in faith and family values gave way to a public picture of him as a hard-drinking, breast-grabbing wise guy who stiffed his business partners and pissed (almost literally) on his rivals. He started to look more like Jackson Pollock than Mr. Rogers. If anyone knew that American success was built on unbucolic truths, Kinkade did. His pictures know it, too.
Our art critic Blake Gopnik wrote about how his opinion of kitchster painter Thomas Kinkade has softened since his death, and also the disconnect between Kinkade’s real life and the life he portrayed.
Daily Pic: A sculpture by the British artist David Shrigley, now in his solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London. Shrigley certainly has a jokester side (other pieces include a stuffed dog carrying a sign that says “I’m Dead” and a cup of tea the size of a sink) but at his best he distills significant themes and iconic images down to their Looney Tunes essence. Stick figures having sex on a red car hood seems to do that trick for pornography. (Photo by Linda Nylind)
#F29: Some photos from today’s Occupy Wall Street protests, which are centered around Bryant Park in New York City and aimed at corrupt corporations. Using the hashtags #F29 and #ShutDowntheCorporations, the protesters seem to be aiming their ire at corporations as well as the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, a conservative non-profit.
The image in the second row on the left reportedly shows protesters outside of Pfizer’s NYC offices. The bottom two images are a poster advertising and an image of journalist and author Matt Taibbi speaking at the park. Among other things he reportedly urged listeners to take their money out of Bank of America because, “it’s not safe.” (source)
Frontpage: Wednesday, Feb. 15th
- Fake Cancer Drug Hits U.S. Market: The pharmaceutical company Roche is telling hospitals that there’s a fake version of its cancer drug Avastin floating around American markets. This was discovered after counterfeit vials were shown to have none of the active ingredients that combat cancer.
- Iran to Reveal Nuke Steps: Uh oh. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will announce “key nuclear achievements” Wednesday. Iranian news reports that the progress will probably be that the uranium enrichment plant, Fordo, located inside a mountain, is “fully operational.”
- Romney Rushes to Defend Michigan: With Rick Santorum surging ahead of Mitt Romney in the polls, the former frontrunner is returning to defend his home state. Romney’s campaign bought nearly $1.3 mil in airtime.
- Biden Lectures Chinese VP: Leave it to Vice President Biden to give a straight-talking toast to China’s vice president, and likely future leader, Xi Jinping. “As Americans, we welcome competition,” Biden said during a State Department lunch. “But cooperation, as you and I have spoken about, can only be mutually beneficial if the game is fair.”
- Syria’s Assad Sets Referendum Date: President Bashar al-Assad says Syria will hold a referendum on a new constitution on Feb. 26, but even as he made this seeming concession, his forces increased their bombardment of opposition towns.
Photo: “Untitled” by Weaam El-Masry, a fiery Egyptian artist whose nudes are risqué by almost any standards. She says she is worried about the prospect of an Islamist-dominated government. “They don’t think. They don’t use logic,” she says. “They think art is forbidden.” See more of her work and read Ty McComrick’s piece on Egyptian artists and government censors.
On a wall encircling the American University in Cairo’s downtown campus on Mohammed Mahmoud Street. Throughout clashes in Tahrir Square and surrounding streets, people on motorcycles have delivered wounded protesters to field hospitals for treatment.
Daily Pic: “Deluge” (left) and “Solaris”, two recent, trademark photos by Marilyn Minter who – shock! horror! – has just now begun to break her commitment to traditional analog film (as in “Solaris”), and embrace the brave new world of digital (with “Deluge”). (Click on the image to enlarge it.) Her timing couldn’t be more fitting, given yesterday’s announcement that the great film titan Kodak has gone bankrupt. I collected artists’ views on the fall of Kodak in a piece on today’s Daily Beast.