RUDIMENTS, pt. 10
There's a class of things called 'outsider.'
The fancy-pants crowd now calls them
'outliers' - as in outlier art, outlier lit.,
whatever. It's again a snobbish way of
affording recognition to something that
'you' previously considered as junk until
some one of your mercantile, idiot cronies
started to put a monetary, trade value on it.
Then all of a sudden it's vital and important,
and the cocktail crowd starts hanging it
on their walls and having enormous and
expensive auction parties to see which
big-bosomed matron suddenly gets to
embrace the new 'sensation.' (There's a
book by Malcom Gladwell entitled
'Outliers,' from about eight or ten
years ago that attempts to lay all this
out; and it started the 'wave' too,
of all that 'outlier' bs, I mean).
When I hit the streets of New York, I had
already been an outsider and an outlier
since probably about the fourth day of
my life. There never was much of a way
around that crummy idea, and I knew it.
When you have a father making 100
bucks a week, a bunch of kids, a series
of crappy cars, and little prospect of the
big time, you just learn to live within
those means. I didn't even live it for
myself really, for as a kid your parents
really live your early life for you.
Beggars can't be choosers and all.
None of that ever stopped my brain
or my imaginings, however. Whatever
I was, that was for others to put their
dumb-ass names on. For my own part,
I was ready to dig and shovel into and
out of wherever this all brought me.
I had no pretensions of being in any way
'involved' in the art world. When I got to
the Studio School that WAS the art world,
already. Everything was in place. There
were guys with gallery shows, one or
two already under management, with
fees and stipends and the rest. Some were
teaching as well, for instance, at Pratt
over in Brooklyn. There was this place
in Maine called Skowhegan School
of Art, that was a big art-world Summer
stop; my studio-and-school friend
Judy and others were regulars there.
It was a real 'badge' place; meant you
were on your way somewhere. It was
the beginning of 'networking,' even back
then before that term really existed in the
way it's used now. That's how a lot of these
people got big, made it to the higher levels.
It's all kind of a mystical combination, at
differing levels, of connections, application,
who you know, 'networks' - names, places,
organizations and contacts. You had to be
really serious and intent about all that stuff.
I'm not saying that was the only way, but
pretty much all this art-fame stuff involves
sweat and application - not so much to the
art itself, the doing of it, but to the work
of getting yourself, name, and work, known,
or shown, or put 'out there' for others to see.
Also important - not so much today at all
as much as it was in the old days - was
to get yourself classically trained, get some
documentation, artworld credentials, BFA,
MFA, all that. It's the sort of things that
those roster-clients of galleries and exhibitors
look for, look at. You have to be 'spectacular,'
and then be able to brag about it too.
Every so often, every some-somewhere, maybe
you still read about a surprise-find, a new
sensation; some rubble-artist tucked between
boulders. A discovery. Then (another new
development in the last 70 years) the 'Art
World' business takes over : gets its claws
into that person and it all gets a life of its own.
No one ever says, at that point, 'what is this crap?'
because everyone's too buy admiring it - by
the pointed publicity and exposure they've had
pressed on them. They take it all in, and the
next thing you know someone's shelling out
400-grand for a 4 foot painting. I have a friend,
she's like half into the big-time now, from the
Studio School, she says 'chuck the galleries,
all that stuff; it's no longer needed. Not with
the Internet - you can do it ll yourself, be your
own agent, and show your own work. It's pure.'
The problem I've always had with merchandising
'myself,' as it were, is primarily two-fold. The
first being that I really can't stand the sorts of
people that do this stuff, the ones with whom
you need to deal and schmooze and pretend.
(There's a book, a bio of Louis Nevelson,
entitled 'Light and Shadow' - by Laurie
Wilson. If you read that carefully it will
walk you all through the sorts of conflicts
and duplicity - and lawsuits too - that arise
while one is clawing their way up through the
ranks. And SHE too was considered an outlier.
Until she somehow made it). And the other,
and this is most vital to me, while you're doing
all that stuff, you're no longer working at
creating. I just could never cross that divide,
in either case - probably wasn't worth any
of it either, don't get m wrong - there really
are people who are just 'spectacuarly' good
at what they produce.
Today's big art stars are oftentimes global
people anyway. It's a fine meld of exotic names
and language, (Baldessari, Freud), sometimes
shocking subject matter, or striking, psychological
challenges in the viewing, or even exhibitionism.
I never had any of that. The big name world-people
just go on and on, and once they hit on the idea
that works for them, the style or move that
finally puts them over the top, they stay with it.
They start doing it, safely, over and over. Or,
like Jeff Koons, they just turn stupid.