Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Art Is Lost, but Alive

Art hunkered in the shadows of Lascaux, smoldering.
He broke into the third dimension under Rembrandt, found beauty

With Botacelli, exactitude with Van Eck and Vermeer; exploded
Into a rage of color and perspective with the Impressionists, the Cubists.

Then Art began questioning his intentions.

In 1917 Marcel Duchamp hung Fountain, a urinal, at the
Society of Independent Artists exhibit, and said “this is art.”

In 1980 Jeff Koons did pretty much the same thing
with four Hoover vacuum cleaners, but for a different reason, perhaps,

at the New Museum in New York City. One of the series (why quit
a good thing?) was recently sold by Christies for $11,801,000, and

being encased in plastic the vacuums still work, which is an added
bonus. You could take them out and clean your house.

Since then Art has wandered many places, but seems to have a fascination
with primary functions: Piero Manzonni in 1961, exhibited

90 cans of Artist’s Shit (two cans recently sold
for well over $100,000 – must be good shit!) and Adres Serrano

dropped a crucifix into a glass of urine and photographed it;
John Baldassari videotaped himself sitting in a chair; Maurizio Cattelan

Hung stuffed horses, and Matthew Barney milked his
Cremaster, but this was tame stuff.

When Guillermo Vargas’ chained a dog to a gallery wall
letting it starve (it was later rescued) he violated Art’s trust;

and when Aliza Shvarts successively impregnated herself, aborting herself
each time while videotaping the procedure she became what Art

Should never be -- evil. Today Art is lost.
He finds himself slouched on a barstool off Forty-Seventh

unable to remember where he lives; an air conditioner
banging away and the Wurlizter playing Cryin by Roy Orbison.

The amber liquor is going down smooth, too smooth. It so seems
long ago since Art took his hat off the peg and went to find

beauty, truth, and the mind and soul of humanity. The bartender, a cherub with
an evil grin pours it slow out of a stout bottle, and the light is the light

of Marlowe, of dusk and neon and loss. After
a few more drinks, Art has to piss. He gets up walks to the rear

but the door opens not on the men’s room, but on a high prairie where
moonlight casts shadows off contorted sagebrush. He pisses and watches

the dry ground drink it up. Not far off a coyote howls. North wind, and Art
feels the back of his neck prickle. He throws his head back, and once

the dizziness subsides, stares into the vast cataclysm above dotted with stars,
but he doesn’t realize that up is relative

to where he stands (which is perhaps Art’s problem - hubris?)
and he is staring into directionless

endless distance. Pieces of an exploded universe move away from him
at speeds approaching light, rushing blindly into infinite emptiness

until at some immeasurable future time they might slow,
stop, and begin retracting again, long after the lights

of the dwellings on earth have burnt out; long after Art is dead.
Art shivers again, turns and re-enters the warmth, light and cluttered noise

of the bar. He summons the bartender, takes out a wad of cash
and buys a round for everyone in the house; then he walks over

to the jukebox and plays another Orbison song, “You Got It.”
Art turns and watches the crowd, their naïve humanity,

Their banter and their beauty, and Art grins, happy to still be alive
even if barely.

1 comment:

Night Monkey said...

Thanks for posting this, Paul. I DO like it!