art

Your Greatest Piece Of Art

Emily and I went to the LA Art Show this past weekend. The show was 200,000 square feet of eclectic paintings, sculptures, mixed media pieces, and live performance pieces, both foreign and local, traditional and contemporary.

In general, I was pretty impressed with the art. Of course, there were a number of how the fuck did this get here pieces, but overall it seemed like the caliber of art was high.

Art. What is art? It’s one of those super-vague, overly subjective questions that can bring forth answers akin to nails on a chalkboard.

Perhaps What is art? is not the right question. Perhaps the real question is, What is the purpose of art?

Art, if I may pontificate, is meant to elicit a response. The viewer should, in some form, connect with the art, and as a result, a feeling or a thought should come forth. If I look at a painting and think, I have no idea what this is, then the painting isn’t for me.

I bring all this up because there was one piece that elicited such a response, so much so that I’m still thinking about it now and, in fact, am writing about it in this very blog post.

Here it is:

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat. What can I say about this man that hasn’t been said already. His art transcended. He brought a new perspective and unique style to the world in a time where the New York scene was bubbling with the fullness of punk rock and the infant stages of Hip-hop. He dated Madonna before she became Madonna. He left this world too soon.

Basquiat. Yeah, his art was great, but look at his life. He was a slave to his addiction. As singular and one-of-a-kind as he was as an artist, he was also yet another heroin addict.

I have to say, that’s pretty weak.

When we think about art, hardly do we ever solely focus on the art, but instead we also view the artist with a watchful eye. It’s as if the artist is just as much a part of the art as the canvas and oil. There should be some congruence between the art and the artist’s lifestyle, shouldn’t there?

So what do I make of Basquiat? Yes, his art was awesome, but his life kind of sucked. Being addicted to heroin sounds pretty god-awful to me. Reading a bit on his personal history, his childhood and adolescence was full of turmoil and strife.

Should I be inspired by Basquiat, for all the timeless pieces he created, or should I look upon him with sorrow, wondering what could have been had he been able to conquer his demons?

And this leads me to my actual thought: For any creative person out there, the greatest piece of art should be life itself. If the art is badass, then the life should be badass as well. What’s the point of creating the next Mona Lisa or composing the next Bohemian Rhapsody if life sucks? At the end of the day, where did all the great art lead to for Basquiat, or Kurt Cobain, or Amy Winehouse?

Don’t get me wrong, I still find Basquiat’s art to be invaluable, but he’ll never be someone that truly inspires me, because he couldn’t figure out how to compose the most important piece: life.

It’s just a thought. Fucking art.

 

Chris.

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The Art Of Contrast

For better or worse, I’m an LA guy. I was born and raised here, having never lived anywhere else. When I hear people say disparaging things about Los Angeles, I get defensive. “People are so fake here,” or “The transportation is horrible,” they might say.

The thing is, I know these things, but you are not allowed to say them since you’re on the outside. It’s like when a man fights with his girlfriend and busts out the line, “Jesus, are you on your period?” He very well may be right, but still, what the hell does he know about the menstrual cycle? On a side note, living with Emily, I’ve learned a thing or two about that, and trust me, you’d rather not know.

Another opinion that’s thrown out about Los Angeles is that it’s a haven for artists, and more specifically, the struggling artist. This is definitely true, as Emily and I spent our weekend around the art of LA.

My brother, an artist himself, had a private show over the weekend. Again, another LA stereotype coming to fruition: you have to know someone in the know to hang out at the cool spots. But this show was as LA as it gets: an art show, famous people, a DJ booth, live music, and drinks on the rooftop. Even I felt like a tourist, observing the cultured in their native habitat. I’m glad that I like my brother’s art; it would suck if I had to force myself to support something I didn’t enjoy. But I really believe in his talent so I can give my full support with a clear conscience.

My brother's private art show

My brother’s private art show

Emily and I also spent a day at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA. Thank god we went – it was the last weekend that they were showing Kahlil Joseph’s exhibition, Double Conscience. If you’re a fan of Kendrick Lamar, this was a must see: a 14-minute film titled m.A.A.d that provided visuals to Kendrick’s 2012 album, good kid, m.A.A.d City, projected on a dual screen. The film showed video images of the hood, the ghetto, the neighborhoods between the 10 and the 91, between the 405 and the 710, if you know what I mean. But the images served to beautify an area that’s otherwise looked upon as dark and tragic, with Kendrick’s verses being played throughout. Being that good kid, m.A.A.d city is a social commentary of Kendrick’s upbringing and culture, Kahlil Joseph’s film blended perfectly with the music. Hopefully, they’ll show this exhibit again for more people to see.

Kahlil Joseph's Double Conscience at LA MOCA

Kahlil Joseph’s Double Conscience at LA MOCA

Kahlil Joseph's m.A.A.d. on dual projectors

Kahlil Joseph’s m.A.A.d. on dual projectors

Apart from Double Conscience, there was plenty of cool art on display at MOCA.

Emily admiring the work of Jackson Pollock

Emily admiring the work of Jackson Pollock

Artists are collectively unique, a different breed. It’s a feeling I can definitely relate to. After all, I do consider myself an artist of some sort. There are moments in life when I feel so weird and different from everyone else around me that I want to completely detach myself from society, go off the grid, unplug from the matrix, if you will. In those moments I believe that no one else knows what I’m going through or how I’m feeling, oftentimes including myself. I may not even know what the hell is going on but I know that there is this feeling inside of me that I want to get out.

I see these artists all around me, and yes they are all different and diverse, but really, the struggle is the same. We’re all living this life trying to make sense of it all. I read this quote once on Reddit: The meaning of life is to give life meaning. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do, make our lives meaningful in the end. It’s so easy to separate and contrast individual to individual, and I know LA is the land of struggling artists, but really, no matter where we are or where we’re from, we are all struggling artists, and the art is our lives.

Chris.

The Writer Alcoholic

Do you drink?

Certainly, if you consider yourself to be a writer, then you must indulge in an alcoholic beverage on a regular basis.

I’m not sure what this says about me, but I’ve been given alcohol as gifts from multiple people recently. Is it because they know how miserable I am? Do they know that I enjoy writing? Or have they seen me on more than one occasion being lit up and said, Hey, this guy likes to drink?

About the writing, I’ve thought about this for quite some time. Does writing and drinking go hand in hand?

There is no way I could ever write and drink at the same time. I imagine that under the influence my writing would be of the same caliber as Charlie’s from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Couple that with my hundred pound teenage girl-like tolerance and the results would be embarrassing.

I suppose I’m thinking more about the lifestyle of a writer, or on a grander scale, the artist. After all, I do consider writers to be artists of some sort. In my opinion, the greatest art comes from a place of intense vulnerability and pain. If life is nothing but puppy dogs and ice cream, then you have nothing meaningful to express. Well, that’s not entirely true – I do love me some Mister Rogers Neighborhood, and his material was as vanilla as it gets.

I’m talking about writing that transcends: stuff from the Hunter S. Thompson’s, Charles Bukowski’s, and Herman Melville’s of the world. They seemed to have lived completely miserable lives, yet out of that misery came a Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas or a Moby Dick.

This brings me back to drinking. If you travel outside of the U.S., you’ll realize that this country views drinking with a far more negative connotation than most of the world. So if we want to write more and wish to become legitimate writers, should we drink more?

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Midnight In Paris, but you really should. Yes, Woody Allen has made his fair share of duds, but this movie is more on the Annie Hall side of the scale. It seemed like when these 1920’s writers weren’t actually writing, they were drinking. One such writer, Ernest Hemingway, had a good quote about drinking:

I drink to make other people more interesting.

His buddy F. Scott Fitzgerald also championed the pastime:

Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life.

I suppose what I’m really pondering is this – so many of the great writers in the past were such dedicated drinkers, so is that part of the blueprint to great writing? If I wanted to be the next Jimi Hendrix, I would seriously think about doing drugs; luckily, that’s not what I’m striving for. I do enjoy the beer, wine, and whisky, but is it time to kick it up a notch? Should I advance into drinking on the daily?

I realize these questions are somewhat silly, but still, you have to wonder sometimes. Hemingway wouldn’t have written A Farewell To Arms without experiencing the brutality of war, but perhaps the alcohol was just the thing he needed to cope with it all and organize his thoughts and feelings so that he could write about it.

It’s just a thought. Please don’t share this at an AA meeting.

Chris.