Friday, July 29, 2011

A Crumpled Bill On The Sidewalk

Parc Rosenberg 1957

It was at the height of his worldly success and influence as an artist that Bill reached the height of his self dissatisfaction and destructiveness. He would go on benders that lasted for days, maybe weeks, getting lost, only to be found by friends sleeping on the sidewalk or wandering around dazed and not properly dressed for the cold weather. He would hang out with the most destitute of his fellow citizens, the penniless drunkards of the neighborhood with whom he sat on the curb sharing a bottle (and they knew him by name as he knew them.) It was at this time that he finally decided to leave New York. It was time to leave, not time to die. It was also at this time that he produced his great series of Highway Landscapes.

It is not merely coincidental that I've begun this post with paintings from the year I was born. My awareness, knowledge, and eventual understanding of Bill and his work was a major force in the development of my social character and constitute some of my earliest positive memories of contemporary art. More than any others, his paintings and drawings, as well as his way of living and creating, helped to form my ideas of what can be called an artist's work.

Ruth's Zowie 1957

Untitled 1957

Palisades 1957

Untitled 1958

Suburb In Havana 1958

Montauk Highway 1958

Untitled 1959

A Tree In Naples 1960

Villa Borghese 1960

Door To The River 1960

Spike's Folly 1960

Spike's Folly II 1960

Untitled 1961

Rosy-Fingered Dawn At Louse Point 1963

Pastorale 1963

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lucian Freud's Death

I first became aware of Lucian Freud's work when I was in High School. I used to haunt the Art Library in the basement of The Wilbur Cross Library at The University of Connecticut. My school, E.O.Smith, was located on the University Campus. They had a few catalogues from Freud's very infrequent shows, and there were a few European art books that displayed some pitiful reproductions of his pitiless portraits. I took courage from the awkward beginnings of his art. I figured that if Lucian could become such a superb draughtsman, lacking as he did any "natural talent," then so could I. Much as I love his late work, when I heard that he died I thought immediately of those early paintings and drawings.

One of the first paintings I ever saw of his, in the flesh as it were, was in a group show at Xavier Fourcade Gallery in tribute to Willem De Kooning on his eightieth birthday. The painting was Naked Man With His Friend. I always felt a connection between their work, De Kooning's and Freud's. Lucian was another exile, like Bill. The paintings I'm showing here are all from the War Years. You can almost hear the bombs dropping, as you could in London at the time only after they'd already hit (that's how you knew you were still alive,) even now long after they fell.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

......Whose Name Was Writ On Water

These are paintings and a pencil drawing Bill was working on during the Second World War and just after. I believe they convey the true spirit of the time. Bill's mother was living in an occupied country, and he sat in New York listening to all the news of destruction on the radio. The figures are isolated, even when there are two of them. They are surrounded by a spirit of desolation. Late in life, Bill would paint a picture quoting the inscription on Keats's grave, but water imagery appeared early in his work. One of the two abstractions which end this post is called The Wave, the other is Untitled. Which one is which, the observer may be hard pressed to guess. The painting at the top of this short tribute is called Self Portrait In The Wilderness, and it's a postwar piece, dated 1947.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bow Wow Wow

Bow Wow Wow was one of two bands that I felt truly and passionately connected to in my early twenties. The other one was Public Image Limited. I still listen to the music from these two groups (and also to New Order and Gang Of Four, but my appreciation of them came later and was not so fanatical.) PIL was good for about four years or so and was essentially a collaboration between John Lydon and Keith Levene, formed after the disintegration of The Sex Pistols. Bow Wow Wow, on the other hand, was the brainchild of Malcolm McLaren, whose mismanagement was largely responsible for the Pistols premature dissolve. His uniting of Myint Myint Aye, whom he rechristened Annabella Lwin, with Matthew Ashman, David Barbarossa and Leigh Gorman (of the original Adam And The Ants) more than made up for the loss of the earlier band(s.) The truth is (as far as I'm concerned) that Bow Wow Wow and PIL are way better than the Pistols. The other bit of information I wish to convey (and what sets Bow Wow Wow apart from PIL) is that Bow Wow Wow was the best live band of its time, which the various videos of their performances, littering YouTube and other sites of its kind, amply prove.

What follow are some of the highlights of their record album cover art, which was done with a much more sophisticated eye than most. The final album isn't by Bow Wow Wow at all, but from the band they became (at least at first) without Annabella. This was Chiefs of Relief, Matthew's first band where he took stage front and center. Matthew, sadly, died of diabetes at the age of thirty five in 1995. Annabella still occasionally tours with Leigh Gorman (and whoever else can be persuaded to come along, sometimes including Dave Barbarossa) as Bow Wow Wow.