August 29, 2010


I've been listening to the podcast The Partially Examined Life in the studio (this is one podcast among others that I listen to while painting, I'll report on them all in a subsequent podcast) with much satisfaction. I ike the banter, the rim shots, the chemistry between the characters there, the Jack Black-like musician (Mark Linsenmayer ), the sad one with calm voice who usually guides the rudder of the conversation back into the topic (Seth Paskin?), the avuncular and wry Wes Alwan. What's cool is that the internet has shown a spotlight on the life of mind of other communities of philosophy, you don't have to get tenure to live the properly examined life.

At the beginning of my volumetric painting production (1996-onward), I had named the spiny hemispheres in my work Monads, after Leibniz's atomic entities. I had only a sketchy idea of what they were at the time and the more I learn about his ideas, the more confirmed I feel in my intuitive assignation. If you too want to confirm my intuition, check out The Partially Examined Life's Episode Six: Leibniz?s Monadology: What Is There?. Good stuff.

Also, don't miss the Arthur Danto podcast, super, super interesting.

Posted by Dennis at 3:44 AM | Comments (0)

Disasters of War

Sometimes when the thought arises that perhaps my attachment to Goya might be an artifact of sentimentality (I was marked by a visit to the Prado when I was thirteen, they had an exhibition of the Caprichos at the time and I was possessed by his Saturn, Devouring his Children), I check myself. Then I come across something like Blog de Narco while scanning the news and I realize with a mix of sadness and grim registration that this theme will never expire from human experience. (Especially this link, click with caution.) How does that Platonic ditty go? "Only the dead will see the end of war." How is it that the best among us, such as Francis Fukuyama, could ever dream that we are standing on the doorstep of utopia with his "End of History and the Last Man" thesis? Perhaps we can only ever stand at the threshold, incapable of entering. It's time to play Joni Mitchell's Woodstock with a splash of bitter irony and a couple of cubes of ice.

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August 26, 2010


(After Goya's "No sabe Lo Que Hace")

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August 25, 2010



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August 24, 2010

Kiko and Lourdes Get Married

Faithful readers of this blog (hosannas to you, I hoist a drink and toast you marvelous people!) might remember my strong friend Kiko Noguera. (Type his name in the search box in the colophon for the list of links.)

Well, Kiko and his girlfriend, then fiance, now bride are now married, a three day affair. The locals call it a "Gypsy Wedding", since a rolling party of this kind is typical to them.

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Strife is Justice

Last February after I attended the ARCO art fair in Madrid, I went on to visit friends in various places, one of them was in Copenhagen. I marveled at the social democratic system, so wonderful was the society there. I wondered about my country, about how we could come up so short in terms of government services since our tax rates are very close to those in the EU. Since then, I have come to realize that while the USA is emulating the European model, Europe is moving ever so slightly to the right in terms of restraining government spending, the precipice of bankruptcy being the prime motivating factor. Kind of like California and Ohio and other states back home. Recently, I heard that Germany is hiring again and that their economy is going strong thanks perhaps to Angela Merkel.

In light of this, is this interesting article from the New York Times, Denmark Starts to Trim Its Admired Safety Net:

For years, Denmark was held out as a model to countries with high unemployment and as a progressive touchstone to liberals in the United States. The Danes, despite their lavish social welfare state, managed to keep joblessness remarkably low.

But now Denmark, which allows employers to hire and fire at will while relying on an elaborate system of training, subsidies for those between jobs and aggressive measures to press the unemployed into available openings, is facing its own strains. As a result, it is beginning to tighten up.

Struggling to keep its budget under control after the financial crisis, the government in June cut into its benefits system, the world?s most generous, by limiting unemployment payments to two years instead of four. Having found that recipients either get work right away or take any job as their checks run out, officials are also redoubling longstanding efforts to move Danes more quickly out of the safety net....

...Such European countries could profit, many economists say, from adopting the more dynamic parts of Denmark?s ?flexicurity? system. But now that the global recession has exposed chinks in its armor, Denmark?s efforts to find a new balance between job market flexibility and security for workers are setting off alarm bells in the country.

?We have a famous flexicurity model, but now it?s all flex and no security,? complained Kim Simonsen, chairman of HK, one of Denmark?s largest trade unions.

To be sure, Denmark is not abandoning the welfare state. Government spending accounts for about half of gross domestic product, and few Danes complain about a top income tax rate of 50 percent that generously finances unemployment, pensions, health care and other accoutrements that, studies claim, make Danes the happiest people on earth.

Hardly anyone in Denmark, a small, tranquil country of 5.5 million people, falls through the cracks. The constitution even guarantees Danes the right to work and to receive public assistance if they stumble. But sustaining a benevolent nanny state is proving to be challenging even for the notably generous Danes.

Politically, I am square in the center. I think that political purism on either side left or right is not only foolish and dangerous but also unimaginative. The challenge is not an inert tandem grasp of each side but to find or fashion a dynamic synthesis of the two, to make the tensed bow of Heraclitus. So blame the temerity of an artist (an occupational hazard) that I would come up with a meme for a political campaign that could be used by either side Democrat or Republican: "More for Less", better government services for less tax money. The Democrats could undercut the Republicans by stealing the goal of making a smaller government, and the Republicans could steal the thunder of the Democrats by unlocking the secret of government efficiency and banishing the old but still yet incriminating chestnut "good enough for government work" to the dustbin of history. Therefore I was happily surprised to find this snip later on in the article mentioned above:

?It?s no surprise the government is saying that programs that are highly expensive and give a Rolls-Royce treatment to citizens have to be trimmed,? said Iain Begg, a professor at the London School of Economics. ?So the search will now be on for labor market policies that deliver more people in work with less money, which has an inevitable air of the holy grail about it.?
A Holy Grail? It better not be. It's not utopian because doing more with less is something every worker and business does and has to do every day of their-our lives. There's no reason that any government anywhere in the world has to live a life that is different from the citizens they serve... unless it is the citizenry that serves the government. And we don't want that, do we?

Do we?

Posted by Dennis at 4:33 AM | Comments (0)

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

"The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it..."

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman was made in Tossa de Mar in 1951, it was the first Hollywood movie made in Spain... during Franco's Spain, and remarkable it was because it included the Catalan language during a time where the signs in the streets were not yet faded that told the locals to "speak Castellano and not the language of dogs" (I paraphrase), so strong was the effort of the Federal fascist government to dial down the contentious and rebellious Catalan culture, the locus of which was the Spanish Civil War. A significant number of the older generation of Catalans to this day find it difficult to write in their native language so strong was the repression. Anyway, the movie is legend here, especially since Frank Sinatra flew in to Barcelona and drove straight to Tossa to try to intercept his own Pandora in the person of Ava Gardner who was at the time being courted by a famous bullfighter of the period. Art and life in flux.

I post this in order to remind myself of a pipe dream of remaking Pandora and the Flying Dutchman in two ways: one, an art movie with friends and cheap production techniques, relying on knuckleheaded kismet all along the way; and another, a real Hollywood production with an honest to goodness femme fatal. As I had blogged in the past, Angelina Jolie has faded as a candidate and the question as to who could fill the shoes of Ava Gardner is an open one. Please by all means send me an email if you have any ideas. Alas, the second pipe dream is as substantial as the smoke wafting from my Marlborough... but then many good things in my life started out with a wish upon a star.

Here is the first of twelve YouTube episodes available online. An interesting link about the restoration of the film is here.

Posted by Dennis at 3:43 AM | Comments (0)

Transgression, Defanged.

This video reminds me of how transgression has been tamed, domesticated, defanged, commodified. The destruction of musical instruments is a well established method of declaring one's bonafides as a creative radical, we even have a Wikipedia article on the subject, so normative the practice has become. But I always wondered how many Rickenbackers that Pete Townshend had to smash before he had that creeping sense of kitch and betrayal of the revolutionary and transgressive impulse. Of course, I am thinking of our/my visual art world. Chris Burden can only shoot himself in the arm or crucify himself on a Volkswagen so many times, Acconci could only masturbate under the floorboards so often until the act becomes routine and absorbed and thus domesticated into popular culture. One can trace the trajectory of transgression from the scandalously hot to a domesticated cool repeatedly throughout art history. The shock of the new doesn't last so long after all.

It was a problem that I first spotted in grad school in the early nineties. It was about that time that Francis Fukuyama wrote his famous "The End of History and the Last Man", wherein he declared that history has ended, so successful has been the project of liberal democracy. The gods must have been laughing, hubris precedes nemesis as the Greeks were wont to say. Enter Bin Laden. This is what happens when you anticipate utopia: history ends and so does art, there are no more pages to write, no subsequent chapters to add, all the authors are dead, the new is caput and the universe cools into a dissipated inert light-less gas.

But art lives on anyway and utopia remains a figment of the imagination (reify paradise and thus one makes monsters... why is it that we continually mismanage the boundary between imagination and reality? Perhaps this is the prime method of the ruthless ones among us?). This is the central problem of our time, especially for my/our art world: how do you revolt on revolution? My bet is that you start by questioning the assumptions of the people who taught you in the first place. Shake it down and see what falls out. This is how modernity (in the largest sense, beyond all the post's and neo's) stays new: to be modern is to reconcile the life you are living with the things you are making. This is an Oedipal act (Oedipus can mean so many things, I am writing here of a revolt on the father, of how each generation has to recast the world in the light of today's experience, to question our inheritance and modify it to suit the life we are living). Unless we do this as artists, our transgression will be as radical as a puppy mouthing a child's hand. Sure, the teeth are as sharp as needles, but isn't that puppy sooooooo cute?


Posted by Dennis at 3:17 AM | Comments (0)

Gods in Color

Last February, I blogged about a museum exhibition whose subject was how ancient sculpture was a colorized affair. Today I came across an article that flushed out more information about the person who pioneered research in this direction, German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann. The print version of the article is here. A snippet:

A few weeks later, I visited the Brinkmann home, a short train ride from Munich. There I learned that new methods have greatly improved the making of sculptural reproductions. In the past, the process required packing a statue in plaster to create a mold, from which a copy could then be cast. But the direct application of plaster can damage precious color traces. Now, 3-D laser scanning can produce a copy without contact with the original. As it happened, Brinkmann's wife, archaeologist Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, was just then applying color to a laser reproduction of a sculpted head of the Roman emperor Caligula.

I was immediately taken by how lifelike Caligula looked, with healthy skin tone?no easy thing to reproduce. Koch-Brinkmann's immediate concern that day was the emperor's hair, carved in close-cropped curls, which she was painting a chocolaty brown over black underpainting (for volume) with lighter color accents (to suggest movement and texture). The brown irises of the emperor's eyes were darkest at the rim, and the inky black of each pupil was made lustrous by a pinprick of white.

Such realistic detail is a far cry from the rendering of Paris the archer. In circa 490 B.C., when it was sculpted, statues were decorated in flat colors, which were applied in a paint-by-numbers fashion. But as time passed, artists taught themselves to enhance effects of light and shadow, much as Koch-Brinkmann was doing with Caligula, created some five centuries after the archer. The Brinkmanns had also discovered evidence of shading and hatching on the "Alexander Sarcophagus" (created c. 320 B.C.)?a cause for considerable excitement. "It's a revolution in painting comparable to Giotto's in the frescoes of Padua," says Brinkmann.
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August 23, 2010


The last third of my summers here in Tossa is total crunch time. Lots to blog about, but the studio is of course the first priority. Stay tuned, an avalanche will come soon.

The other side of this foto here.

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August 17, 2010


And earlier "Ahora" under the fold....


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August 13, 2010

Corazon Partido

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A Few of my Favorite Things

While sitting at a local restaurant here in Tossa, I caught a glimpse of one of those things I like about life for an artist here in Spain...

Bar-Lluis-081310-b.gif, they tend to names streets and buildings after you.

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August 12, 2010

Binary Breakdown

(Playing around with Evernote, acting a fool. Una tipo de capricho, por la epoca 21. The latter notes lifted from In Our Time's The Social Contract)

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August 5, 2010



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August 4, 2010



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In a few minutes, I'm going to pull the owner of this bar over and tell him from the bottom of my heart how much I appreciate this place and how grateful I am to G-d that he is my neighbor.

I'm that full of love right now.

(Pictured: Josep in a yellow t-shirt; Isabel, his wife, seated right. The grandpapa, not pictured is here.)

Posted by Dennis at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)