Friday, August 21, 2009

Roxy Paine: true art, this year at the Met

Last August my nephew, in his last year of college, visited New York. I wanted to show off.

Hence: the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Evan's from L.A., an art center rivaling the Apple (I know New Yorkers tune out this fact. What I can I say but LACMA, the Temp Contemp, the Getty, the Contemporary, Pacific Asia, Huntington, Pasadena Museum of Contemporary Art, Norton Simon, galleries galore - good galleries - and more more more). Like me, Evan had an art-intensive childhood, although more contemporary than mine. Hipper. Some different music, some different visuals, but art all that way.

No matter how much my sister Judy - his grandmother - protested she didn't understand art, her life revolved around art. She reacted to my parents who must have framed the almighty importance of the one true path in strident ways. I don't have an actual memory of this but I'm pretty sure it could have happened - my parents gluing electrodes to our (me and my three sisters') temples during the Bach Beethoven Mozart, Dante, Dickens, El Greco, da Vinci athons.

We Female Four rebelled, but there's no escape from childhood. The classics were implanted. We live our lives as we can (with gratitude and surprising hipness). That said, the classical gene skipped Judy - second daughter - the one who followed valedictorian, full-scholarship-to-Smith, Jean.

One evening, Judy who was by this time married and living in the C.D. (Crenshaw District), was home for a dinner. My father teased her - cruelly - about art, understanding or identification thereof. She went limp and whimpered. I don't understand art. Bullshit. I wanted to deck Pop, but at that point I acted in, not out.

Judy spent the approximately forty of her approximately sixty years breathtakingly entrenched in native, original, indigenous arts and worked with the Smithsonian and other museums. And she wasn't a white lady "mixing." She was something altogether original.

Yeah, right, sure, she didn't understand art. My father knew he was an idiot but he didn't understand how vicious he could be. Or, bless him - he was very funny at times - he couldn't help himself.

So part of my subject here is Jeff Koons, commercial artist. He's okay. He can be fun. Commercial, yup. Nothing wrong with making money. But to be called art - Pop or highbrow - an artist, an artwork, has got to provoke feeling. (Hello, Michael Jackson, provacateur.)

Last year's Jeff Koons sculptures on the Met rooftop provoked boredom - there was no place an imagination could go with them - and Evan saw it right away (which made me so proud of him).

Which brings me to my other main point. Roxy Paine sculptural installation Maelstrom on the Met's roof this summer. Through his twisted silvery branches reaching bending looping joining pipes and disappearing into the floor, there are the blues of sky, shapes of cloud, the thousand greens of Central Park treetops.

After I saw the Paine I ran into a curator escorting a dignatary. I said:

Thanks for putting real art on the roof this year.

She was all Ivy League cool and true art-lover intrigued. Who'd we have, I don't remember. I reminded her. Oh. She looked away.

Can't wait to bring Evan to the roof this year. My nephew will take one look. My nephew will know what too many fail to see. Art isn't a chia pet.

I can't wait until Evan comes to N.Y.C. He'll take one look and he'll know.

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