Slaves to the Visual
You know when you start a blog and have a bunch of ideas for posts and it feels great? But then you starting slacking but still have new ideas and then it turns from feeling great to having a huge list of catalog of unfinished things that beseige your mind like an bunch of squatters? I’ve been sitting on so many ideas and drafts for so long that they have begun to rot beneath me like a tower of wilting cabbage. Excuse the ripe metaphor, er simile. If I don’t start tossing some out, I will slowly sink into this liquid rancidity and drown in a horrible but very vivid way.
I had written a somewhat whiny rant, but instead of inducting myself into the pissant hall of fame, I decided I’d do well to bow to older and wiser heads. Then lo and behold, I found a lovely little piece by Benjamin Weissman as I was digging through back issues of the Believer, 10 of which I’d purchased for $2 each years ago either out of love for McSweeney’s or to stoke some cheapskate bargain-hunting urge. It is a preface to a piece on ten LA artists, but he talks about how his relationship to art galleries has changed as he got older:
When I first went to galleries as a nineteen-year-old snotnose with my high-school surf pal Christopher Williams. We used to tear DeKooning labels off the walls of a swank West Hollywood gallery and reapply them to car windows or just bring them home and put them in our notebooks. The prank seemed justified.
Most of the galleries we visited back then reeked of bourgeois conservatism. They seemed antithetical to the seething impulses that were coursing through our feet, hands, noggins. Artworks spoke to us, they said, revolt, smash, peel labels off walls, and then, prove your own worth, go home and contribute to culture, don’t be a loser. After graduating from CalArts Chris and I started showing at various galleries and I found my way into writing fiction. As kooky fate would have it, Chris began showing at the very same gallery we had earlier vandalized.
As I got older I realized that galleries performed a remarkable service. They did the hellishly impossible: they sold art. And the gallerists, those well-coiffed characters who always seemed more like undertakers or the nervous leaders of a new but not very popular church, kept the walls painted white and the lights turned on.