Lady Gaga - Frieze Magazine
I wonder if Lady Gaga has ever heard of Meat Joy? Not Carolee Schneemann’s 1964 performance piece of the same name, a dance of sausages and naked bodies, but the short-lived Texas band, who released one self-titled LP in 1984 and promptly broke up. Meat Joy’s album is eclectically unclassifiable, though you might call it punk – punk in the best sense, like The Raincoats, restlessly curious and acerbically funny. It begins with a woman’s deadpan sarcasm: ‘There’s another pair of breasts on the other side of town / They’re bigger than yours / So I gotta fool around’. And lo, the connection between feminism and meat, between the female body and its objectification as mere flesh, is forged once again.
Carolee Schneemann, Meat Joy (1964)
De Kooning’s work was part of the pronounced (male) Modernist tendency to depict the female body as pure, primitive carnality. Jean Dubuffet’s 1950 ‘Corps de dame’ (Ladies’ Bodies) series of massively rotund women recalls the Venus of Willendorf, while Hans Bellmer’s 1958 bondage photograph (below) of his lover Unica Zürn – trussed up with string like a pork chop – is captioned ‘Keep In A Cool Place’.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more coolly economical statement of Surrealist attitudes to women, and women artists. Bellmer’s compatriots Otto Dix and George Grosz had, a decade earlier, satirized political corruption in Germany via grotesquely exaggerated images of women as voluptuous prostitutes and insatiable bourgeois wives. With all these piggy ladies on display, is it any wonder that later feminist artists deployed meat as a material of critique and also, in Schneemann’s words, as a ‘celebration of flesh as material’?
But there’s a flipside to the feminist use of meat-as-metaphor (and material), and that’s the history of meat and meat songs within black popular music. Recorded in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression, Skip James’ ‘Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues’ laments the life of an itinerant African–American worker, ‘driftin’ from door to door’ in search of employment. He ends up as a slaughterer, then as now a physically exhausting and often dangerous occupation: ‘If I ever can get up / Off this old hard killin’ floor / Lord I’ll never get down / This low no more.’ The song’s killing floor is both the abattoir and the world outside of it, which was equally ruthless to animals and workers, particularly black workers in America’s rural south, where James lived and recorded his music.
James’ song inaugurated a documentarian blues tradition – one which crops up decades later even outside of music, in Charles Burnett’s landmark 1977 drama Killer Of Sheep, which depicts life in Los Angeles’ tough Watts ghetto through the eyes of Stan, an abattoir employee. But Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’ (1966), in which the slaughterhouse stands for the violence done by a woman to a man’s heart, was even more influential, covered by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Led Zeppelin, among many others. You can trace this psychosexual metaphor of meat as murder (apologies, Morrissey) right through to Nick Cave’s Abattoir Blues (2004).
While meat in the blues tradition has referred to economic exploitation, it has been used by female musicians and artists to draw attention to sexual exploitation – more specifically, the exploitation of the gaze, which the wearer of meat, in draping her body this way, makes both visible and visibly offensive. It is meant to repulse and to shock: to bring to the surface, rather literally, a condition of being seen which women live with daily.
But the wearing of meat is also bizarrely alluring and sexually confrontational: Gaga is fully alive inside her meat dress, in a way that Roland Barthes might have appreciated. In his 1957 essay ‘Steak and Chips’, Barthes ruminates on the ‘prestige of steak’ for French intellectuals:
…steak is for them a redeeming food, thanks to which they bring their intellectualism to the level of prose and exorcise, through blood and soft pulp, the sterile dryness of which they are constantly accused.
And one might send that as a memo to Camille Paglia, whose recent characterization of Lady Gaga as ‘sexually dysfunctional’ is, as an intellectual statement, barely worth chewing over.
Anwyn Crawford is a writer based in New York, USA. She blogs at populardemand.wordpress.com.
Photographer Brian Ulrich, born in NORTHPORT NY explores not only the everyday activities of shopping, but the economic, cultural, social, and political implications of commercialism and the roles we play in self-destruction, over-consumption, and as targets of marketing and advertising (his personal statement). Focusing on the middle class and their reliance on big box-malls and the hyper reality of flourescent lighting, he is what Eggleston is to rural america to the average consumer, documenting soceity’s mass homogenization.
Beyond that he explores the second life of objects that have been disgarded, re-appropriated, and re-forgotten in america’s mad dash towards modernity. While he may not be presenting the most profound material, I can’t help but awknowelge his proclivity towards organization and a linear aesthetic, two things I find very comforting my my own photography.
Brian Ulrich in his series, Copia
Brian Ulrich, Untitled (From thrift stores)
Brian Ulrich, Lyndhurst, OH 2004, 2005
Just wanted to post Rachel Thorlby’s piece as a follow up/ comparison to Jerry’s Fave Paintings. She is a london based artist who re-apporpriates classical images and sculpture with a contemporary twist. Busts, paintings etc…
Here is her website: http://www.axisweb.org/seCVWK.aspx?ARTISTID=10548
“Sherry is Ms. Young’s outré persona, a trashy Southern blonde who never met a confrontation she didn’t like…”
The saga of Anne Live Young and P.S 1 continues here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/12/arts/design/12young.html
I’m beginning to think that my tumblr is becoming an ode to Jerry Saltz. But I stumbled across a blog he did for NY Mag about his 16 favorite paintings in NY in no particular order. Jerry is a self- proclaimed lover of painting, and while I think he harbors a soft spot in his heart for the classical use of the medium, he still manages to approach contemporary works with an open mind. Obviously I’m going to have to do a follow up and list my 16 favorite paintings.
Here they are:
Philip Guston Stationary Figure (1973) The Met
“In an image reflecting Guston’s egomania, his love of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, his felicitous touch and rosy-fingered color sense, a monstrous, one-eyed figure lies in bed, smoking and staring at a pulsating bare lightbulb. A clock reads 2:25. That’s a.m. In one cartoonish flourish, Guston sums up the dark nights of the soul, when artists wonder if they will ever produce something good.”
**Perhaps there is nothing more indicative of modern painting than guston’s personal depiction of the artistic ego. This painting is a touchstone for the Art School age and all those self-aware in their creativity.**
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes
The Duchess of Alba (1797)
The Hispanic Society of America, New York
“Goya, master of dashed hopes, daredevil brushwork, and the color black, gives us this voluptuous duchess in mourning dress—though she isn’t grieving so much as being mourned by Goya. Sixteen years her senior and stone deaf, he offers up a vision of imperious sensuality and unrequited love. The inscription at her feet translates to “Only Goya.” That’s how I often feel. “
** A second self-referential piece, though less insular than the first, celebrating the girl of one’s dreams, Only Goya**
The Cathedrals of Fifth Avenue (1931)
“Paint as cake frosting; color as shimmering cellophane. This hallucination of a wedding procession on a red carpet spilling out of a department store raises shopping to a batty rite of passage.”
** I think what makes JSaltz sucessful is his ability to see somethign more in paintings that I would immediately write off. At first Stettheimer’s piece looks kitchy and predictable, but then I realized it was made in 1931, and all of a sudden I could understand what makes this piece important. With our country in the throes of depression it really makes this seem more like a hallucination then a daydream.**
Jean-Auguste- Dominique Ingres
The Comtesse d’Haussonville (1845)
“A showstopper in any context, even at the Frick, which has one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces of any small museum in the world. The girlish 27-year-old countess, already a mother of three and destined to be a historian, scrutinizes us coyly, within a typically sumptuous Ingres setting. The amazing Delft-blue ensemble, her insanely creamy, curving arms—she’s a decadent dessert almost too rich to digest.”
**This artist’s control over hte medium is enougnh to solidify this piece in the cannon of great art. Even though the pixels of my computer screen, her dress crosses dimensional boundries and appears to be solid and soft and the same time. There is something unsettling though about the sexualization of youngwomenchildren in these paintings that I do not like, perhaps its this that makes me want to take a bite out of her puffy girl arms. Decadent dessert indeed.**
The Bather (1885)
“Think of this enigmatic boy as stepping into a new optical dimension: He is simultaneously seen from above and below, left and right, surrounded by a subtly destabilized space that will fracture into Cubism. The Bather is the dawn of a new pictorial era. Matisse was right: Cézanne is “a sort of god.” He’s in my top four Western painters along with Velázquez, Goya, and Matisse himself.”
** Like a Koros Boy for the modern age, Cezanne takes two classical view points and combines them, disregarding traditional artistic conventions, not only in pose but in texture. Here we can see the beginnings of cubist facets and the intensity of Fauvist coloring. This piece is truly the steppingstone into paintings modern age, where paintings became less about subject matter and more about the medium itself.**
Evening Storm, Schoodic, Maine No. 2 (1942)
The Brooklyn Museum
“I am so overwhelmed by the wounded otherness in Hartley’s art that I can’t write about it or him. He defeats me. This is the work that I would most want to live with.”
**Sometimes my sliding scale to determine is a work of art is great or not is measured by my desire to stick my fingers into it. Occationally there is something about a painting that just grabs you, and while it may not be ‘great’ in a traditional sense, you just know deep down that you need it in your life. Marsden Hartley doesn’t do this for me, but there is something captivating about the spumage of his waves crashing against the rocks in an indeterminable darkness that triggers a reaction that is part the omnipresent forces of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and part Sorceror’s Apprentice.**
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn
“The artist as monumental Buddha, cloaked foremost in shadow but also in furs and embellished silks worthy of a magus—a poignant counterpoint to his careworn face, staring from beneath the brim of a nearly invisible hat. From that face, Shakespeare could have written King Lear. Rembrandt, Goya, and Velázquez were the painters who opened the door widest to the fullness of human emotion.”
** This is one of my favorite paintings as well. I have spent hours discovering the subtlties of this piece as I worked on my own art. There is something romantic and noble, but also rugged and unabashedly human. Perhaps one of the greatest paintings of all time.**
Morning in the Village After Snowstorm (1912)
“Like an explosion in an airplane factory, the Cubo-Futurist masterpiece depicts gleaming robot peasants in curved metallic shards. The composition of snowdrifts, houses, and people spirals energetically toward a distant sled-puller, and recalls the artist’s childhood—a way of life that predated the Industrial Revolution and outlasted the Russian one. “
**Constructivism is one of hte more fascinating eras of modern art. As Russia was slower to industrialize, once machinery and modernization were introduced into society, they became akin to religion. Constructivists became obsessed with clean design and utilitarianism, something that can be seen in Malevich’s metallic and geometric figures roam through the Russian country side as if someone replaced traditional peasant figures with machines.**
Blue Lines X (1916)
“The visionary painter was one of only about a dozen European and American artists attempting abstract paintings in 1916. The simplicity here is poetic, the blue lines reminding me at once of animal tracks, hieroglyphics, and Barnett Newman’s zips.”
Young Lady in 1866
“Isolated against a background of unbroken gray (containing Brice Marden’s entire career) is one of the greatest housecoats in the history of painting on one of the period’s greatest models, Victorine Meurent—the nude star of Manet’s once scandalous Olympia. This is what she looked like on her day off.”
Staten Island and the Narrows (1835–55)
The Brooklyn Museum
This bewitching picture of white-crested waves, wispy clouds, and gorgeous ships passing between Brooklyn and Staten Island jumps off the wall: How wondrous and magical New York was—and still is. I imagine Walt Whitman on the shore, in his usual state of multitudinous ecstasy.
Vincent Van Gogh
Mountains at Saint- Rémy (1889)
A progression of motion and emotion set off by brushwork, color, and Van Gogh’s turbulent sense of surface design. The road, trees, and house in the foreground are reasonably real. But the undulant mountains beyond—under a threatening sky of raw impasto—are haunted with figures, flames, and, in the middle of it all, a blue angel’s wing.
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Mortlake Terrace: Early Summer Morning (1826)
Although I’m not a Turner fan, this painting speaks to me for its uncharacteristic calm. Instead of the painter’s usual bombast and histrionic portrayals of nature’s violent indifference, or just its special effects, we see the beneficent unity of man and nature. Nothing is forced, there is no drama, and for at least one painting, I love Turner.
Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio
The Denial of Saint Peter (circa 1610)
Notice the dramatically gesturing figures, stark lighting, compact cropping, and complex moments of internal and external emotions. That is how Caravaggio essentially foreshadowed modern filmmaking.
Duccio di Buoninsegna
The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain (1308–11)
This powerful little canvas once appeared on the back of Duccio’s Maestà in Siena, one of the landmarks of Western painting. But it does quite well on its own. It depicts the moment that Christ rejects Satan’s offer of two marzipan-like cities (Italian hill towns, actually). Note cowering devil slinking off, stage left. (The equally fabulous landmark painting St. Francis in the Desert, by Giovanni Bellini, lives at the Frick as well.)
The Journey of the Magi (1435)
In a crisscrossing, snow-covered landscape, the three magi follow the star of Bethlehem, fabulous entourage in tow. I am enchanted by the mix of opulence and tranquility and the whimsical pink walls of the city behind them. New York is filled with superb but easily missed sleeper paintings like this.
I do my best thinking when I’m riding my bike. And in a brief Julia and Julia epiphany, I thought it would be fun to maybe embark on a sandwich journey, partly planned out by NY Mag’s 101 best sandwiches Article from a couple months ago. Nothing too serious, just an attempt to try and eat one every week.
Next week = Mile End Deli
Jessica Craig-Martin, Untitled
I discovered Jessica Craig martin when I was interviewing for an assistant position at the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery. In an effort to acquaint myself with their artists and past exhibitions in a quick Cram session, I slowed down at Jessica’s blown-out, tongue-in-cheek celebre-real snap shots. Her photos shine light on the darker underbelly of the rich and famous in a flurry of unflattering angles and tawny skin. Her style is a combination of the Richard Billingham’strashy starkness (she is british too!) and traditional celebrity/ party photographers who try their best to make events look glamorous and their subjects untouchable.
After doing a little more research, I found out that she had an exhibit at P.S 1 in Fall 2001 that was curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Alanna Heiss. Here is an excerpt from the Press Release:
“Craig-Martin’s work reveals the gap between the set-up shots printed in “society pages” and the reality behind the camera. As a photographer for American Vogue and Vanity Fair, she has access to a rarefied world that, as seen through her lens, is perhaps as full of folly and bad manners as a high school cafeteria.
While closely observing the lives of VIPs has become a favorite national pastime and voyeurism almost an obsession, these images juxtapose familiarity with suspicious ambiguity. Unlike traditional event photographers, Craig-Martin uses her camera surreptitiously, breaking down myths of wealth and beauty that propel fashion photography and sustain the beauty industry.”
Jessica’s photography exposes the less glamorous side of celebrity, cellulite, bunions, the chubby veined fingers of old women. People become less beautiful through her lens, and their other qualities are hyperbolized. People look self-fish and needlessly extravagant. The harsh light of the flash brings out the blemishes and drunken red-tones in their skin. The members of high society are brought down to a more pedestrian level, and appear like clumsy animals rather than the gods and goddesses we are used to seeing at premieres. Her work no doubt, is a cheap thrill, she captures unflattering seconds, and moments that were not meant to be under scrutiny. She uses her ins in the fashion world to exploit those who live in the public domain. Its not high-brow, her work is full of gimmickry that creates peaces that are as intoxicating to look at as the subjects in her photos. With no redeeming qualities in her work, the viewer has no choice but to become the guilty voyeur. Craig-Martin seduces us into her dark world and before we know it we are hooked to the debauchery and stop looking for a way out. We want more lechery, our appetite becomes ravenous for scandal, and we look to perpetuate the deconstruction of Fame.
The ‘ha-ha’ here is that the belly of her work was made in a time before blogging.
Ryan McNamara, I thought it Was You
“I know that the art I’m creating may seem silly, even stupid, or that it might have been done before, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t serious,” —Jerry Saltz
Sincerity, vulnerability, the 2010 artistic trend.
I think I like this piece is because it channels that self aware, exhibitionist feeling I getting when I dance. I’m not a great dancer. I like dancing, but I know I will never be good at it, no matter what kind of professional training I subject myself to. Ryan shares a similar viewpoint. His two videos at PS1 play simultaneously, one shows him jerking under the harsh strobe lights of an empty club, and the other is a rural exploration in bodily movement. Side by side they contrast in setting and mood, but they both show the insular awkwardness of dancing by oneself. To supplement these videos, Ryan is undertaking a grueling performance piece that takes place at P.S1 every day the museum is open (The name of this on going series is, Make Ryan a Dancer). He either invites a friend, or noteable dancer to give him a dance lesson or he practices steps he’s learned. (I’ve been lucky enough to get close to Ryan who likes dragging his 2-piece mirror into the front lobby near where I work.) It becomes this strange self- depreciating play where ryan trys to master moves his body can not accomodate while his teacher effortlessly dances besides him—exposing his true lack of coordination and ability. This failure is only further reflected in the mirrors he practices in front of and in the waning patience of his teachers who sometimes don’t understand that he just cant dance.
The public becomes a large part of this performance, creating an audience for one man’s inevitable embarrassment. Ryan is tiny, he has a dancer’s body and you would expect him to be able to pick up these steps easily, but day after day his body lets him down from front of his viewers who don’t often understand the full scope of the piece. This constant embarrassment and awkwardness rings through with unironic purity challenging most preconceptions of contemporary art. Yet he dances every day. He comes in smiling, often with large dark circles under his eyes, slightly frantic, a little sweaty, but ready to perform, as their private dancer for a group of strangers who happen to pass him by. He makes this sacrifice everyday, unabashedly opening up to his audience with brazen sincerity. He knows he will fail, that people will laugh at him and not understand what he is doing. They will assume he is a shallow performance artist making a spectacle of himself, selfishly indulging in some petty artistic narcissism, but for Ryan and for me he keeps on dancing all the same, hoping with zealous optimism, that one day he might become, A Dancer.
Perhaps a less stated component of this piece, and to piggyback on Jerry Saltz’s comment, Ryans piece doesn’t rely on a high-brow quality of redempotion. It is kind of silly, and less severe than many of the other works in greater New York, but it doesn’t mean that it shouldnt be taken seriously. If you take the time to watch him, you find your self being moved by his earnesty and shortcomings.