The Unbearable Banishment: May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Which is funnier?

Which is funnier? A man walking out of Port Authority onto 8th Avenue with a long pennant of toilet paper attached to his heel?

Or a grown man walking through a New Jersey mall parking lot who should ask his mommy for help picking out clothes to wear? Ouch! My eyes! Or is this some daring, new fashion statement I'm unaware of? Am I the clueless one? It wouldn't be the first time.

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I took the do-dads I purchased from the Art-O-Mat and hung them on my desk wall and because I have absolutely NOTHING new to say, I thought I'd post that. I have a flock of paper cranes, the do-dads, an angry bird next to a marble Buddha (a statement on my constant inner conflict) and a backstage pass from a Springsteen concert. Without the splashes of color, it's just federal penitentiary tan.

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I know! How about the current atrium exhibit at MoMA? This fun Ellsworth Kelly sculpture is called Sculpture for a Large Wall. Ooohh...that's clever. I like Ellsworth Kelly about 75% of the time. That's a pretty good hit ratio. It's a big-ass piece (65 feet long!) that Kelly did in 1957 for the lobby of an office building in Philly.

It's made of colored, angled, aluminum panels and rods. If you stand on the other side of the atrium and look at it in its totality, it's pretty good stuff.

You can walk around Manhattan and see a lot of office lobby artwork done by some pretty big guns. Roy Liechtenstein. Frank Stella. Jasper Johns. Guys looking to buy a summer home.

Edit for daisyfae:

The cranes are not Post-It Notes. They're made from Japanese paper. (Click for detail.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cooler than the pyramids

This is the coolest thing ever. It's cooler than the pyramids. Do you guys know what the Art-O-Mat is? They've taken old cigarette vending machines and instead of tossing them onto the landfill on Staten Island, they've re-purposed them to dispense tiny original works of art. It's ingenious! There's only one in New York Cityat the Whitneybut my hotel in Las Vegas had FOUR of them. Each piece of art is only $5 measly bucks. Well worth it. I've spent more and have gotten a lot less in return.

Above each knob, where the cigarette brand logo was once displayed, is the name of the artist and a brief few-word description of the art. You really have no idea what you're getting. You feed a sawbuck into the machine and pull the knob out which, for an oldster like myself, is a thrilling trip down memory lane and presto! Your art is dispensed below.

Approximately 400 artists have been commissioned to create works of art that fit into small white boxes the same size as a pack of cigarettes. 

Some artists decorate the outside of the boxes.

This box from Monica Wu contained an original linocut print of a flower wrapped in tissue paper. A linocut is what I used for the cover of my Thunder Road chapbook, so I was all over this one.

Alexandra Lee made a pin out of a Scrabble tile (the letter B on the verso) depicting a cityscape and also included a bonus paper crane. 

This is Barcode Oprah Winfrey by Scott Blake. It's a flip book. It starts with Oprah's big, stupid face and as it gets closer, you see that it's made entirely of ISBN barcodes. The barcodes are taken from the books that have been recommended by Oprah's Book Club (the titles of which are listed on the verso pages.) $5 bucks, people! More barcode art here.

Art-O-Mat! Look for one near you.

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Me + a wizard

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Canine Whore of New Jersey

This is my UK first edition of The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West. I love this book and this collectible copy is in particularly nice condition. Remember the rule when it comes to collecting: condition is king! The reason this is a UK first is that I cannot afford a U.S. first. The first editions in the author's home country are always more expensive than the foreign first editions. It's called following the flag. A decent U.S. first of this title will run you around $2,000. This UK first is probably worth about $300 bucks, give or take a recession.

This is the corner of my UK first of Day of the Locust after my swine of a dog, Coco, chewed it. The book is now worthless. It certainly wasn't one of the most valuable books on my shelf, but I really loved this one and it hurts more than it probably should. Both of my girls went through babyhood without touching any of my collectibles. I turn my back for one second and that stupid mutt tries to make a meal of it. Christ, I hate dogs.

So, naturally, I started to look for a heavy, bunt object to smash her over the head with. Can you blame me?! But first, I had to find the little pig. When I turned the corner into the living room, I was confronted with this Hallmark Moment.

I am so stuck with this problem. And since she (the dog) is only 6-months old and she (the daughter) is only 5, I am stuck with this problem for a long, long time. I can feel the punishment but I can't connect the crime.

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It's all about geometry! Here are a few pics I took from poolside in Las Vegas. The hotel I stayed in was surrounded by new construction and I thought they made for some interesting angles, especially when viewed against a desert sky.

I heard some people complaining that looking up and seeing buildings wasn't very appealing. But the light in Las Vegas is so bloody bright and the daytime desert sky so blue, that I thought it made for some interesting, otherworldly vistas.

Here's where I stayed. The Cosmopolitan. A beautiful hotel with a stunning view from the balcony. When I come home from vacation, I always suffer a brief period of mourning. Vacations give you a taste of the sweet life, and then you get the knife. My moroseness has been particularly acute this time around. I'm really blue. I'm in such a funk that I gave away tickets to a Broadway show last Friday night (A revival of Harvey starring Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory) simply because I didn't feel like going. I didn't care.

It's not difficult to rebound from a trip to Disneyworld or (please forgive me) a trip to Ohio to do the family thing. Both are enjoyable but they're necessary trips. I had been waiting for years and years to take this Vegas trip and it proved to be as cathartic as I hoped it would be. Winning a big pile of money didn't hurt, either. Coming back down to earth has been a real problem.

Monday, May 14, 2012

No obligations

For three strange days
I had no obligations
My mind was a blur
I didn't know what to do

 I think I lost myself
When I lost my motivation
Now I'm walking 'round the city
Just waiting to come to

From three strange days.
Three Strange Days
School of Fish

Greeting from Las Vegas. I hope you are all well.

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Slot machines are for old ladies and people too lazy to apply some simple math. Everyone knows that! My friend and I, both sophisticated gamblers, were three sheets to the wind from several glasses of pretty good red wine and decided to prove, once and for all, just what a boring waste of time it is to play slot machines. We pooled our resources ($50 each) and bellied up to a $1 Wheel of Fortune slot machine. It's a silly device that allows for a bonus payout each time a "spin" icon appears. A wheel of fortune is automatically activated and spins round and round, usually paying out an additional $20 or $30 dollars. Don't make me laugh. You can do better than that on one simple roll of the dice.

After several eye-rolling, we-told-you-so pulls of the lever, feeling quite vindicated and proud of our prejudices, this came up:

That's $1,000. So, as you can clearly see, playing slots is a boring wast of time that never nets you any kind of real payout. Losers. Leave it to the professionals.

So I have to eat my words while on vacation, too? Don't I get enough of that at home?

*     *     *

I've seem some pretty tragic cases since landing here. We had a big guffaw over some kids who got in way over their heads at the bar and, literally, had to be carried down the aisle. This place is crawling with amateur drunks and people gambling with mortgage money. We had a long, interesting, conversation with an old guy who visits prostitutes on a regular basis (it's legal here). But here's what has to be the saddest thing I've seen so far:

Teach your children well, indeed. How extraordinarily selfish. Dad won't be denied his time playing slot machines so he plops his adorable, innocent young daughter in his lap and makes her play, too. What kind of imprint do you suppose is being made on this poor kid's mind? Gambling will forever trigger feelings of parental love and acceptance.

I should know. My dad used to play football pools with household funds, even though we were economically challenged. He started giving me football chits to play when I was a young teen. Filling out football pools were the only conversations we ever had. It certainly wasn't abusethat's not what I'm implying but if you ask Dr. Freud why I love gambling so much, what do you suppose he would hypothesize?

On the other hand, it got me $500 richer yesterday, so maybe I owe him.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You paid how much?!

I posted the prices realized from this week's contemporary art auction at Christie's. You're not going to believe your eyes. Expectations were exceeded. In come cases, by many multiples. Buckle up and scroll down.

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I'm flying to Las Vegas early Saturday morning. Lots of guys go there to visit strip clubs and chase young tail. Some guys drink themselves into a blind stupor. Some queue up at the buffet and stuff themselves like horses at a bottomless trough. Some twist towels and jam them into the bottom of hotel doors, fire up a bong and smoke themselves into an anesthetized oblivion. Some mix a toxic cocktail using all of the above. Those are not my vices. The only real danger I pose to myself is when I'm bellied-up to a craps table. I like shooting craps. A lot. Can I maintain my composure? Well, that's the name of the game, isn't it?

Will try to post a dispatch from the road. Yo eleven!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gavel banging for the 1%

The spring Post War and Contemporary Art auction is about to be sprung at Christie's. I present to you my semi-annual post of jaw-dropping and head-scratching multimillion dollar offerings. Here’s proof positive that judging art is, at best, a subjective sport and that beauty truly is in the eye, and the pocketbook, of the beholder. These works are not for you or I to consider owning. We are left to wonder what it would be like to have this kind of discretionary income. If nothing else, these auctions serve to reiterate a point we’ve known all alongthat wealth is not a barometer of good taste. I ran down on my lunch hour and took these pics. Check back on Wednesday and I’ll post the prices realized for each lot.

I’ll start off with the works that I like. The estimates are uniformly insane for ALL these lots. I can’t imagine what I'd do with an extra $15 mil but I wouldn’t blow it any of these. However, if I were to bid at this auction, these are the works I’d raise my paddle on. Feel free to disagree but remember, this is my sandbox.

I like Andy Warhol. I always have (see banner up top). He's fun! The photo doesn't do this painting justice. The flowers are so bright that they're almost luminescent. A fantastic piece. Flowers. Est. $800,000 - $1,200,000.

Sold for $1,202,500. See. I told you they were nice.

What do you suppose the guy who actually designed this Brillo soap pad box thinks about this? Warhol must be laughing is ass off. Brillo Soap Pads. Est. $400,000 - $600,000.

Sold for: $812,500.

Here's one of Andy's iconic soup cans. Cleverly titled Small Campbell's Soup Can (Chili Beef). Est. (ready?) $5,000,000 - $7,000,000. It's a SOUP CAN!

Sold for $7,362,500. It’s a SOUP CAN.

There are a few of Warhol's celebrity portraits for sale. Here's a painting of a very young Meryl Streep that was executed in 1984. Meryl Streep. Est. $900,000 - $1,200,000.

Meryl Streep: Did not sell. Poor Meryl.

This gargoyle is, believe it or not, Dolly Parton. Also pained in 1984. Dolly Parton. Est. $600,000 - $800,000. Totally worth it!

Sold for $626,500.

Every time I say I'm not a fan of Daimen Hirst I stumble across something by him that I really like. Have you seen the shark in the tank of formaldehyde? Or the skull with diamonds? They're great! This beauty is vibrant, bright and alive. (Again, the photo is a miscarriage of justice.) But the really cool thing is...

...this piece is made from butterfly wings! What a pain in the ass this must have been! Eternal Life. Est. $550,000 - $750,000. Is that all!?

Sold for: $662,500.

There are a bunch of mobiles by Alexander Calder for sale. I love all of Calder's stuff and can actually picture one of these hanging in my home. (Just so long as they're hung far enough away from the snapping jaws of Coco.) On the left is Snow Flurry (Est. $3,500,000 - $4,500,000 and on the right is Untitled (Est. $3,000,000 - $4,000,000).

Snow Flurry sold for: $10,386,500. Well north of the high estimate.
Untitled sold for: $6,354,500. Ditto.

This is kind of the granddaddy of the show. It's what greets you as soon as you walk in the gallery. Mark Rothko's Orange, Red, Yellow. Est. $35,000,000 - $45,000,000. I really like it, although I'm not sure it's worth $40 million bucks. That's seems a bit excessive.

Sold for $86,882,500. BWWAAAA! Eighty-seven million dollars! Good thing they didn’t give that money to poor people They would have just wasted it on stupid stuff like tuition and shelter.

Jackson Pollock! Number 28, 1951! Est. $20,000,000 - $30,000,000! What do you think of that, bitches?

Sold for $23,042,500. I was knocked out of bidding early.

Display this beauty in your window and it'll keep the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormon Missionaries off your front lawn. You won't have anyone for Halloween, either. Spider III by Louise Bourgeois. Est. $2,000,000 - $3,000,000. I remember she did a fantastic exhibit of gigantic spiders in Rockefeller Center a few years ago. They were so sinister looking  that I was a bit surprised they allowed it.

Sold for: $4,562,500. HER work did well. [For nursemyra.]

 Here is a section of works that I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND. Again, this is all subjective and the fact that I can't see the merit in these is utterly irrelevant. Especially to Christie's. We'll start with a real belly laugh. This is Mr. Watsoncome hereI want to see you by Urs Fischer. It's a light bulb on a long cord that swings back and forth, accelerating and decelerating in a 12-minute cycle. Est. $300,000 - $400,000. The statue to the right is NOT part of this lot. that's an entirely separate piece. That's also by Mr. Fischer. It's Untitled (Standing), which is kind of dumb since he says it's untitled but then calls it Standing. He must be a deep thinker, that one. The light you see at the top of the man's head is a candle burning. Est. $700,000 - $1,000,000. Yeah, that's right. One million dollars. It's almost as shocking as paying $400,000 bucks for a bulb swinging on a cord. And those Ikea shelves on the left? That's Untitled by Robert Gober. Est. $500,000 - $700,000. Suckers.

Untitled Standing sold for: $1,314,500.
Untitled (the Ikea shelves) Sold for: $782,500.
Mr. Watsoncome hereI want to see you
for: $266,500. Get yourself to Home Depot and you can put this one together for a lot less.

Cindy Sherman scares me just a bit. I can't imagine hanging any of these in my home, although I have a friend in San Francisco who knows someone who has Sermans in their house. She said her friends try too hard to be irreverent. I recently attended the Sherman retrospective at MoMA. Something like that can have a profound effect on the monetary vale of an artist's work. Everyone wants their taste validated by MoMA. The clown on the left is Untitled (#423). Est. $300,000 - $500,000. On the right is Untitled (#215). Est. $400,000 - $600,000.

Untitled (#423) sold for $578,500.
Untitled (#215) sold for $578,500. 

Jean-Michel Basquiat's Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown). Simply awful. Looking at his work makes me wonder if I'll ever like art again. Est. $9,000,000 - $12,000,000. I'll just die if it sells for that much. 

This piece either did not sell or was withdrawn. It's just as well. It would have ruined my evening.

Warhol's Basquiat on the right but up on the wall near the ceiling is Antony Gormley's Stay. Two years ago there was a fantastic outdoor exhibit in Madison Square Park where he placed 31 of these statues along building ledges and roofs. While I admired that exhibit very much, I can't imagine why anyone would hang one of these in their den, with his ridiculous uncircumcised penis dangling down at you. Est. $400,000 - $600,000. 

Sold for $422,500.

de Kooning. This guy is consistently bad, recent major sold-out retrospective at MoMA notwithstanding. Untitled I. How lazy. Give it a title! Est. $8,000,000 - $12,000,000. Another one that will make me hurl if it sells for that much.

Sold for: $14,082,500. Barf.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tools and Labotomies

I'm having the half bath gutted and turned into a full bath. With so many women under my roof, what choice do I have? What a mess!

Look at the power tools the construction crew left on my carpet: 

Drills and chisels and saws! Oh, my! What a bunch of tough sons-of-bitches. I admire guys who make their living with their hands. They have useful skills. At work, I ride up in the elevator with investment bankers who have manicured nails and smell pretty. I wonder when it all went wrong?

My work tools are a keyboard and a mouse. I'm such a Nancy when it comes to this sort of thing. The contents of my tool box are a complete mystery to me. I've said it before and I'll say it again; the only useful item in my toolbox is a checkbook. And clean and scale a fish? Forget it.

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Man, I hate Greece. Now, there's a bunch of Nancys! Their fiscal problems are all self-inflicted and they're dragging the rest of us innocents down with them. I just read that because of austerity measures, there will be fewer resources for disabled people. According the the Greek Labor Ministry, the following people are all considered disabled:

Pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists, sadomasochists, pedophiles, exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs.

Pedophiles! I'll never visit Greece. I don't care how beautiful their beaches are.

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I live in Mayberry. Mayberry is the fictional setting for The Andy Griffith Show. It's considered the archetypal 1950s small town with friendly neighbors who help one another. And no minorities.

I lost my keys. I tore the house apart but couldn't find them. I rationalized that it could have been worse. It could have been my wallet or my iPhone that went missing.

Two days later, Mrs. Wife got a call from the local police. They had my keys. Apparently, I dropped them while walking the dog. Someone found them and contacted the police. The police were able to locate me because there's a tag for my gym on the key fob. They called the gym and the gym gave them my phone number. Wheels within wheels!

Losing your keys is such a cliché. It's what old people do. Or people who have had a lobotomy. Good thing I live in Mayberry.

Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em
That I got no cerebellum.

Teenage Lobotomy
The Ramones