Today I picked up the March Issue of Modern Painters. Two things sealed the deal: the fabulous cover of Marina Abramović, interviewed here by Laurie Anderson, with a thick and brilliant smear of gold leaf across her lips. And the claim that this particular issue was a retrieval and examination of its art rock roots – to the days when David Bowie interviewed his favorite artists - a celebration of how art and music collide.
The issue coincides with a conversation I had just yesterday about my own sentimental education with art. My pivotal year of 21 in 1977 in London was filtered through the tonic of music made essentially by dropouts. My model wasn’t an MFA, not that there were so many anyway. The prototype was Patti Smith, David Bowie, John Lennon, John Lydon, David Byrne, an endless list. We loved art and we formed bands.
All these years later, even though I became a painter in a very classic sense (you know, oil on canvas), I still relate the most to this model. And when you make that kind of crossover, sometimes on a daily basis, the blurred line of non-specialization is the order (or the chaos) of the day.
As I prepare for a solo show of the Targets in June at Augen Desoto, people ask me How are your paintings related to your montages? Or are they? Well, how is painting related to rock and roll? Or is it?
A prime example for me right now is the touching story Patti Smith relates in her new book, “Just Kids.” In this book they are drawing, they are writing, they are poets, they are thieves, they are taking pictures. Paramount is the idealization of the art life, which they clearly define early on and cling to even as they starve. Maybe they cling the most when they starve. It’s not about form or medium. It’s often completely internalized, outside of dreams and declarations which are more manifesto than artist statement.
This must have been evident in that recent show of Patti Smith at Robert Miller, which I unfortunately couldn’t see but heard about. She showed her boots, for Christ’s sake. The very name of the exhibition – “Objects of Life” - makes sense when you consider how her whole life is art.
Does poverty have anything to do with it? She had to fight for just about everything, though there is not an unhappy tone in this recount. Some of us find at least an art if not an entire life out of a thrift store. Part of my association between the collage and the garage band is that affordable access, an entry by the starkest means. To be frank it was not a costume I was wild about lending out! - But in good art there’s no borrowing, just theft.
When you look at photographs of the young Patti today, she’s like a contemporary fashion model, ready for the runway: rail thin, odd yet beautiful, birdlike. She’s determined the chic and the norm of today so much that’s it’s easy to forget the impact. The nurses at a hospital in the 60s snidely ignored her pain and call her “Dracula’s Daughter,” threatening to cut her black hair.