Small Window


Steve LaRose, Relativity, 2009, oil on wood, 7.5x7 inches

Steve LaRose, Relativity, 2009, oil on wood, 7.5x7 inches

People sometimes wonder why I get angry and upset when I see lousy art being displayed in the high end galleries of New York. "Who cares?" they ask. "What difference does it make?" they say. "There are always going to be people making money off the gullibility of others with more money than sense." Or "why should it matter to you? Do your own thing. They're not hurting anyone."

There are probably many stupid places to have an epiphany, a moment when suddenly you realize something about life you hadn't quite realized before. I imagine there are an infinite number of stupid places that can happen, but one of the stupidest is almost certainly while reading about Star Trek. And yet that's where I had mine.

I had just finished watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It's one of my favorite movies. I can't honestly say it's a Great Film but damn I love it just the same. I've seen it many times and just about have the whole thing memorized. I still cry when Spock dies.

I was inspired to read about the movie after seeing it for the umpteenth time. And what I read was that the second Trek movie almost didn't get made. The studio gave it a small budget -- so small the filmmakers had to re-use props, sets, and even sequences of film left over from the first movie. In fact the bridge of Khan's ship and the bridge of the Enterprise are the same set redressed because they didn't have the money to build a second set.

What I realized was this: All of the principals involved in making the Star Trek universe -- the creators, the producers, the actors -- weren't going to be around forever. There was, really, only a very small window of time for them to make their TV shows and movies, before people would retire or die. And within that very small window, the movie studio had decided not to finance the production to its fullest. At the fleeting moment when this ensemble could have done its best work they were given no support and a bucket of scraps. They managed somehow to do their best work anyway, but it almost didn't happen.

Now, Star Trek is a small thing. It's not great art or anything. It's an entertainment, and if Trek never got made, or never returned after being cancelled by NBC -- and let's admit the third season deserved getting canned -- I'm sure the world would be fine. I can imagine life without Wrath of Khan. We'd all survive somehow.

But it's not just Star Trek, is it? No it isn't. It's a lot of things. Time is passing and we've all got just that small window in which we can do our best. And what if, when that time comes, all we're getting is a bucket of scraps? Or less?

This was brought home to me most strongly today when Steve LaRose -- one of my favorite people, even though I only know him online -- announced that he has cancer.

And while Steve has cancer, Paul McCarthy has a show. Mike Kelley has a show. Jeff Koons is fucking up the New Museum with crap from Dakis Joannou's collection. Damien Hirst is filling the Wallace Collection with his stink.

This is why I get angry. While the blue chip dealers and their artists are jerking off into little plastic cups and passing them out, great artists are dying. The window is closing on how many of them? Who knows? It's fine and dandy to sit back and chuckle and say it's a game and it's only art and what can you do but goddamn it we only get one shot!

Steve's cancer may not be that bad. I mean, cancer's never good but it's got shades of bad, and maybe -- I hope -- he'll be fine and we'll get many many more years out of him. Which could be that many more years for the art world to ignore him and artists like him; or it could give them some time to change and realize what they're -- what we're -- in danger of losing.


I'm not so sure about some of the others, but I seriously doubt Damien Hirst would jerk off into little cups for passing around. I expect Hirst would pay his flunkies to do that for him, just like he's paid them to make work for him. I mean, when you get big enough, you don't do things yourself. It's too much trouble, too menial. That's what the hired help is for. And yes, we live in a seriously fucked up world, where flagrant bullshit can and does reign, as long as it's the "correct" flavor.

There is some show on tv about something or other and Jeff Koons is saying art is about acceptance of others -apparently though they wank quite a bit worrying about color and photoshop. Is art metaphysics? I don't know.

If no on can define art, then it's hard to get angry about art/not art. But you can get angry about Koons trying to teach us a moral lesson and an art world that uses appeals to metaphysics to rationalize away decadence.

Cancer sucks, but I don;t think you can blame art as an institution without blaming society as a whole (or human nature) - if everyone rationed and pulled together we could get the Large hadron collider working and see something new, as opposed to more variations on the banal.

No one gets out alive.

i know folks who've beat the big c so here's to steve pulling through...!

nice painting, too...! i'm jealous...!

-- tony

I "hear" you on the crap artists getting the shows, the PR, the money - the whole enchilada. Here in SF, it's not any better. In fact, it's worse as we have a very limited number of galleries. The downtown ones only show art from artists who have already "made it" elsewhere. The alternative galleries are (mostly) infatuated with scratch and scrawl scribbles or cartoon art of the latest poseur du jour. Frankly, I'm often shocked as well as disgusted by what gets into the galleries. There are good artists here and sometimes they even get shows but they are few and far between.
BTW, I just looked through your gallery images of nudes. I really like your strong and clear lines as well as the way you also paint women of size.
As far as your friend goes, well, I sure hope he has decent insurance. One of the downsides of the artistic life is poverty which is why gallery sales as so important. No gallery, no sales, no insurance. So, here's hoping that his cancer is not the "big one" and that he gets the treatment he needs.

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