Archive for September, 2010

Greed and other “Sins”

September 27, 2010

Despite all forebodings and warnings of earthly as well as divine punishment, we  sinners seem incapable to reject its overwhelming attraction – we may be greedy by nature.  Indeed, could greed, as well as the rest of  “The Seven Deadly Sins”, have some purpose, without which human life, as we know it, might not function?

  Without, for instance, that other sin “Lust”,  would there be a next generation of sinners.  And without some measure  of greed  to drive us on to be enterprising – we might still be stuck in some pre-agricultural age.  Free Enterprise, however, without restrains and oversight, can turn to viscous “cut throat” competition, even criminal; Crime then becomes the ultimate Free Enterprise. 

Our problem may not be with Sin per se, but permitting Sin to go on a rampage.  Unchecked, without any controls, greed especially, can indeed turn toxic, even deadly.  Promoting ever more consumption,  it threatens to become all-consuming and finally self-consuming.  No matter all the preaching from our all consumed marketeers, we had better control this monster of greed once and for all for the benefit, and possibly survival of us all

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From Dada to Dudu, a history

September 23, 2010

I began to paint while still in diapers, covering the walls of our apartment in Berlin with murals composed of “stuff” which, as my mother recalled, was “not exactly paint”.  It could be argued that the art of “Dudu” began right then and there around 1920.  But, eventually, I outgrew diapers and moved on to more acceptable media.  Lately, 90 years later, I realize that I missed a great opportunity: Another artist, more recently, stole my chance at fame and fortune  The story needs telling:

First there was “Dada”, meant to be provocative “anti art”, borne of the  horrors of WWI., confronting, by the most insolent means, the hollow pretensions of “civilization”, best exemplified by Duchamp’s famous “Urinal”.  In the wake of WWII, and the wars after, offspring of Dada emerged – the “Pop art” generation, flaunting cans, toilet seats, flags, “found objects” (junk), animal carcasses etc – to great critical acclaim and astronomical auction prices.  The movement fizzled, to be supplanted by others, unfortunately before it reached its true and ultimate expression. 

 Along comes Randi Jones, freshman in the Arts Department of Plymouth College.  Against the wishes of his father, he is persuaded to switch to “Art” by his fraternity brothers – “easier and more fun”.  Actually, “Art” was the last thing Randi would ever have been interested in.  However, encouraged by his professors to be “creative” it took not long to convince himself that his work was just as good as those others – “minimalists, abstract expressionists, especially pop artists”.  When Randi graduated with his BA, his father, disappointed that his son was not going into business, nevertheless wished him well and even promised that he would speak to Sam Lansman, a fellow member in his country club and frequent golf partner.  “Really wealthy”, as his father put it, Sam sank the fortune he inherited into a New York Gallery. He welcomed Randy most cordially, examined his work, but told him “what I see here has been done before.”

 His dreams dashed, Randi got drunk – “shit, God damn shit” he kept shouting.  But then during a mostly sleepless night, it suddenly struck him: “the Urinal”, yes, Dada’s legacy to the generation of Pop, but without a true heir. He, Randi Jones, would be that heir. “I’ll show them!”  He felt it in his very guts and set to work.  And that is how Dudu, legitimate heir to Dada, was borne. After a month of very strenuous labor, Randi was ready.  Mr. Lansman allowed Randi to leave his work for “a closer look”. Within a week, Randi got a call: “Good news” said Mr. Lansman “one of my customers came in today, from Beverly Hills, and bought one of your pieces. “It’s what Pollock might have done had he lived longer” he said “earthy and yet quite lyrical, perhaps a whole new direction”. “How do you get these fluid, yet subtle shadings and tonalities, what’s your medium”?  Mr. Lansman wanted to know.  “It’s mostly organic, and I use my bare hands” was Randi’s forthright answer.

 Within six months, Randi Jones, rising star of the Lansman “stable”, had his first “one man” sold out show, to raving reviews. Besides its many other unique merits, the work was hailed for its “refreshing intimate, small scale”, compared to the “overblown” scale of much recent work.  Mr. Lansman was an old pro – charming and generous, he knew how to handle “important” people, and a “genius” discovering “new talent”.  There was but one problem: Randi was unable to keep up with the demand.  “Take on assistants”,  was Mr. Lansman’s fatherly advise “every successful artist has his factory.  You’ve got to produce more”!  Randi tried – he ate as he never had before, and it showed.  For the sake of greater color variation, he occasionally ate vegetables he hated,  spinach, beets, even swallowed charcoal pills.  He felt bloated, often sick, but he kept producing and supplying a seemingly insatiable market.

 But, the inevitable happened: Mr.and Mrs. Donnelly, proud owners of a “Randi Jones” began to notice the strange behavior of Fifi, their purebred Cocker Spaniel.  From the moment their latest acquisition came into their home, Fifi kept staring, sniffing, refusing to leave the site of “Morning Breeze”.  (All the Jones paintings had titles referring to wind and weather – “Northeastern”,  “Evening Calm”,  “75 degree Celcius”  etc.)  “Yes, it’s got a funny smell” confirmed Mr. Donnelly, after his wife had taken a long, deep whiff.   They took their painting to a lab in Los Angeles, and returning home found a message on the answering machine: “your painting is made entirely of human waste”.  Incredulous, Mrs. Donnelly called back:  “What do you mean “human waste”.  “Yes, you know – excrement, shit, crap.” 

 Sam Lansman seemed almost prepared when he heard from Mr. Donnelly:  “Well you know Art, especially Modern, Contemporary Art is what it’s meant to be – ‘cutting edge’, experimental in all aspects.  A coat of varnish should fix the problem”.  Unfortunately, this was not to be the end of the story:  One of the curators at the McDonald Museum of Contemporary Art in Austin, Texas noticed the change in their “Category 3 Storm” – it began to “run, dribble and bloom with an almost iridescent greenish sheen.  “A virulent strain of Salmonella” read  the Chemical Lab report “Extremely toxic!”  “Toxic?!”  But similar reports were coming from other museums and collectors.  In no time, the full power of the United States, Local, State and Federal authorities stepped in – FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), even the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security, alarmed about a possible “terrorist plot”.   All “Dudu” paintings were confiscated, hauled away by “chemical warfare” personal and incinerated.  All museums, galleries, even private homes were temporarily sealed and fumigated.

 This still was not the end of the “Dudu episode”: it triggered a “bubble”, worse than the “real estate and toxic mortgage bubble”.  The Art market collapsed – Galleries, Auction Houses, even Museums closed.  “Looks like the whole art business pooped” was one, not very kind, comment on CBC.  Worse, spreading like a plague, the collapse ultimately engulfed most of Western Civilization.  Some called it a new “dark age”, but others saw in it “the possibility of a new Renaissance”.  Randi never understood what “all the fuss” was about.  In the spirit of Dada’s Urinal, he only meant to carry Pop (art) to its obvious, logical conclusion.  He made the “ultimate sacrifice” – while being arrested, charged with “public endangerment”, Randi Jones collapsed and died of a ruptured colon.

“What do you do?”

September 14, 2010

It’s what I’m often  asked by strangers. “I paint”.   “Houses?”   “I do paintings.”  “So, you are an artist?”  In a culture when anyone now can be an “artist”, I would rather define myself a “construction worker”:  I construct my work, my assemblages – panel by panel. fragment by fragment, line by line, color patch by patch – constructed, deconstructed, reconstructed.  Change, transformation, mutation, evolution – the way the world proceeds.

 My work is not based on some intellectual agenda, idea, concept or formula: I depend on images presenting themselves (usually as I wake up), nagging to be realized.  If it doesn’t turn out right, the work gets deconstructed (cut up) and reconstructed.  I have neither use nor patience with “style” – repeating myself, over and over again, would bore me to death.  Forever curious, I need to move on (forever a refugee, migrant and wanderer).   Much of my work reflects war, holocaust and Hell I seem incapable to escape for long.  But, every so often, I explode into a shower of color, glorious, life reaffirming color.

When asked “how much” (for one of my works),  I feel uncomfortable and embarrassed.  After all, would I sell even one of my two children?  “Art is not a commodity” I have tried to work and live by since 1985.   So, I am not a professional.

Why this Blog

September 13, 2010

Why?  I have been called “opinionated” – yes, I have opinions, notions and ideas, most, perhaps, at odds with “common” sense.

I was fortunate: My formal education ended  at age 14 when Hitler triumphed in 1933 and I fled Germany.  Maybe this is why I don’t stand on formalities.  It set me free – to roam, question, learn and wonder. Life itself became my most intimate teacher.

“Time” may be but a construct of us timekeepers, but at age 92, it may be running out.  This Blog may serve as a forum of some final testament.

 This Blog may evolve without any particular classification or order, a bit chaotic, but possibly reflecting life.  Much of it is taken from “Letters to the Editor”, mostly unpublished.

Should you feel like commenting, please  post on silewen@aol.com don’t feel offended if, for lack of time and energy, I may not be able to respond.  Thank you.

My religion

September 12, 2010

My religion?  “A God fearing atheist”.  Or, more seriously: “A deeply religious non-conformist”.   Perhaps, a non-conformist on most every topic.  But, “deeply religious”?  Yes, I stand in awe of all that is created.  God?  I’m troubled with “God”.  Too many men, women and children have been slaughtered in the name of one God or another.  However, I also stand in awe of all that we do not know as yet but may still learn.