Friday, August 8, 2014


Months before my daughter was born, I vowed to work towards creating a life free of the negative-- or, at least as free of the negative as it could be given the variance of life and art and meals poorly prepared. And so I walked away… The "art world" could wait-- I would have a child to raise and train to move in her own style and swagger. My hands would be full...

3 years later, my daughter paints better than me, with an assured authority that belies her lack of grammatical prowess and syntax, or experience with the Russian novel...

                                        If, in 30 years, 
                                        she paints as she does now, 
                                        the world will be a better place…


Fast forward to now as I type this, nestled in the bosom of the San Fernando Valley…   I am a lucky man. I was married in Vegas and left $1,300 ahead. It was a fine omen given the life we have carved out-- our union and all the rest-- travel, art, the ocean, martial arts, cooking, wine, what have you…

As for today and this thing we know as the "present"-- having worked out, swam, cared for a toddler and tussled with the confusions and physicality of art-making, notebooks and an art "career", I sit here typing with a belly full of meat, greens and tequila, understanding that optimism is the one tool we need, bereft of others-- be it poet, painter, chef, fighter, bigot or victim… Optimism for the poet or painter keeps them going and we, the world, need that. Optimism keeps the chef working and we, the world, need that too… It keeps the fighter hitting the bag and working takedown defense and the offensive guard and it can make the bigot understand his fuckups and see the world in a better, more objective light and it allows the victim to understand that there is so much more out there-- so much more life to go…

If you enter into this beast, that is the "art world", you will stumble, you will (perhaps) become jaded, bummed out, lost, frustrated and/or denied. But you will-- you must-- continue.

There will always be the voices of sorrow, art rehab and quitting. Silence them.

Continue. And endure. It's just better that way...

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Daughter worked rapidly at her easel,
loaded up her brush and paused contemplatively,
"I'm going to cast another spell Daddy…"

I am clearly biased,
but words more profound
have yet to be uttered...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This morning I was surf casting for fluke on Long Beach Island and after being shut out, went for a run along the shore. A day of driving and a night in the studio later, time being the ambiguous slut that it is, we will say that, some weeks back, the ladies and I took a taxi down to 25th Street for the opening of Joan Mitchell at Cheim & Read. I will publicly admit that I now feel I never looked at her work properly. I didn't get it, thought I did and worse yet, voiced opinions that now seem pretty ridiculous, given how moved I was by the exhibition titled, "Trees".

Fair enough… Perhaps the recent protocols of dead lifts, tequila and grass-fed beef evolved my patterns and processes.

Sorry Joan, I fucked up. But I can live with myself, I don't worry too much about the guy on the treadmill...

And Soulages… These are the times that make life here a bit more worth the living.

While we dealt with the frozen challenges of the past winter, my Wife and I (more or less) seriously discussed moving to LA. Now, after beautiful adventures on Fire Island, Montauk and Long Beach Island (and a month in LA to look forward to), I think we're both happy where we are… Now, as this season winds down, I'm benefiting from that buoyant optimism that is the reward of endurance in the face of hardship-- the optimism that is the rarefied status of an artist living and creating in NYC. Yes, it sucks that the drive to my Brooklyn studio can take up to an hour. But fuck it-- I live in Manhattan…

And there is the optimism of labor- good hours in that Brooklyn studio…
And there is the optimism of the paint of others showing and selling and sharing.

Having just returned from Montauk, I turned around and drove the German Steel back East to Bridgehampton for the Art Market Hamptons Fair. The triumphant James Austin Murray met me at the  gate and we took it all in before the rush of crowds and plastic surgery. With 4 new good sized pieces in the Lyons Wier booth, my man was clearly (to my eye) the star of show. But there was also (with Lyons Wier) the killer work of Jeff Muhs- painterly, ethereal, what have you…

At Katherine Markel Fine Art, Suzanne Laura Kammin stood out with her painterly attack, as did the nuanced pyrotechnics of Jeffrey Cortland Jones-- a few weeks off of his solo show (that should not be missed) at KMFA.

The day of his opening, Jones graciously paid a visit to my studio. Fittingly, I picked him up in front of The Met. What could be better?

There will always be the talk and the ink reserved for a Marden show, or Soulages, Mitchell or the latest debacle at the Whitney (perhaps a Koons retrospective, or the manufacture of chocolates?). But with so much fine painting in one season, the soul smiles and the drinks taste better...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I hit the studio hard Saturday morning and then cruised Chelsea for a few hours-- conspicuously, the only man with dried paint on his boots and hands. I wanted to catch up on what was happening and more specifically, to see the Julian Schnabel exhibit at Gagosian and my good friend, ex-studio mate, running partner and drinking buddy, James Austin Murray at Lyons Wier Gallery.

We've been friends long enough that each has stories the other would sooner us forget. For better or worse, his memorable speech at my Las Vegas wedding is still remarked upon by those in attendance. Over the years I've seen his work go through numerous transitions of uncertain quality and brilliance. But, as he began to understand the radical shift in his art that would come to be defined by potent black oil on canvas and polystyrene structures, I knew I was seeing in my friend the maturation of a fully formed painter. Today, Murray's approach to art making is one of earnest authority. It would be an understatement to say he is putting out some of the finest paintings in NYC (or LA, for that matter). The quality of material, the meticulous paint handling, the content and his capture of calligraphic motion all point towards his importance. To my eye, this is a fact as hard won as it is objective.

The Schnabel show was what it was-- John Yau wrote eloquently (though not quite positively) about it and I'm no critic.  Suffice to say, I felt the 3 works on burlap from 1990 were amazing paintings…

If, when sparring, you never suffer the incongruity of injury, you're not trying very hard.

Michael Lyons Wier and I discussed the Schnabel gig as we looked around the gallery at Murray's black oil, then he moved into action as a couple voiced interest and laid down the credit card. It was beautiful to watch-- the good vibe of dollars spent on strong art, well earned coin in my boy's pocket and Lyons Wier working it all in his bow tie and cowboy boots…

Heading back to my car, I stopped into Berry-Campbell Modern and Contemporary Art and stumbled upon the work of Norman Kanter. One small piece dated 1959, on paper mounted on canvas (roughly 20"x 23"), displaying the pyrotechnics so favored by the post-De Kooning downtown artists.

Violent reds and strategic passages of yellow and white.

I was floored...

How the fuck had I never heard this name? I stood there with my mouth open and in a move as desperate as it was optimistic, asked for the price of the work (oddly enough, once I got home, my Wife didn't approve of the purchase).

In my studio clothes, I wasn't fooling anybody. But gallery owner, Martha Campbell, was very gracious and printed an image of the Kanter piece for me. I have the image pinned to the wall in my studio...

It is easy sport to bitch and whine about the travesties of the "Art World" and it's players, it's dealers and the very "art" that keeps the whole game going. I've done it myself. But there is much good in what we (the artists, the dealers, the curators and the collectors) do: we drive this engine of culture on into the decades we won't even see. We define the future of "Art" by what we do in our daily practices of paint and the deal-- installing shows and sipping cheap wine. Little known artists are discovered, having passed on to their next journey and those of the "mid-career" begin to carve out a living as they realize their finest works.

And sometimes, the good guys win...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The legendary Jackson Pollock work, "Mural", is on view at the Getty Center, in Los Angeles.
Conservators have completed the restoration and cleaning of the painting and the technical research into it's storied, rather apocryphal creation…

while academics and fey Warholians bow down
to the ghost of Mike Kelly, far and away from the riot
of paint and sincerity that fueled the brave
of the mid-20th century, it's nearly impossible
to reflect on a time when the reward of Art
wasn't paying off student loans, or the new car--

it was not starving to death…

I fell in love with my Wife for any number of reasons,
but with reflection I admired her for being a "seeker".
she didn't speak of what she knew,
she spoke of what she wanted to learn.

a legitimate artist never "knows" paint.
he succumbs to it, he delves into it's nature,
he gives himself over to the journey…

in a like sense, one can never "know" a martial art.
the practitioner, over time,
may acquire a greater athleticism
and facility of technique,
but the esoterica of training
is never a rote endeavor.

the "way" of paint is no different.

perhaps the distinction between art and craft
lies in the varied desperation of the former
and the accrued "knowledge" of the latter.

by all accounts, Pollock was so deeply flawed,
he had no choice but to search…

i've limped the road of stone
to understanding that what i paint
matters little compared
to what a painting becomes…

i like to think of Pollock's perception
of nature and the turning of that to art…

yesterday was a hell of a day in the studio.
i hope Jackson found
that unique solace at times--
in his small space
with the wood burning stove--
the rope of black enamel
held, for a second,
above the cotton weave...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

my daughter sleeps
on the couch these days…
she's there now while i type this.
i'm procrastinating on duties
needed to move the day forward.
i'm taking this quiet time for myself…
there is a grass fed sirloin to marinate,
dishes in the sink and drawings waiting for life.

but right now i'm typing.
typing and thinking
the thoughts of a man,
perhaps, too satisfied.

there is still fire in the hours
i move through,
but the fire burns
without the tinder of rage.
the urgency,
one of savoring-
of reflecting…

i used to roam Europe
with one bag and no money.
for better or worse,
those days are long over--
families don't hitchhike
and a wife and child
demand the courtesies
of more refined travel.

47 seems a comfortable distance
from 26 and it's violent insecurities.

the danger, of course,
is losing that edge
that made shit happen…

in bad times the artist has to tuck their chin,
roll the shoulders forward,
and bite down on the mouthpiece.

in good times the artist
must continue to find
a battle in every day,
while living richly
and creating loudly…

or quietly.

like now...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

the tumult of the laundry list of fairs
and the debacle of the Whitney is closing…
i've been in my studio. working.
this year was not my year
for $19 glasses of champagne.
i've been in my studio. working…
i have, however, spent time with thoughts
of SoHo, the SoHo of decades ago,
circa 1993…

climbing white painted stairs
for red wine in plastic cups,
later to stagger into clubs and bars
with our fill of art, primed
for heavier sport…

the bouncers liked me
because i could finish what i started…

the same cobblestones
and the same majestic
buildings still exist,
but the glass walled real estate
bordering the sidewalks
is not the same.

and there are places i remember
that are now only that...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

so much whining and complaining:
Dave Hickey, art money, real estate,
dealers, NYC, fairs, etc…
too much time on our hands?
dead space and dead minds
cancel out creativity.
and then what?
well, you can look around
and bitch (as i am now,
having worked the kettlebell
as my daughter naps...).

life is far too short
to wring our hands
over so much
that, in the end,
has nothing to do
with anything of importance.

open that notebook,
pour the paint,
write that novel,
let all the rest burn.
do some dead lifts
and front squats
then fire up the grill...

Thursday, January 16, 2014


the studio looked good
after 2 weeks in California
and a week in Hawaii--
indeed, by my standards, rather orderly.
it strikes me that some of the real value
in the "space" of a studio
might lie in the banal moments
of maintenance and upkeep.
clearly, sweating away
over the elusive line
and uncooperative passage of color
offer their own rewards and scars,
but there is some odd strength
to the less poetic pursuits of priming a wall
or balling up the detritus
of masking tape and paper towels
stiffened by the subtraction of acrylic…

in the San Fernando Valley,
Encino, to be specific,
i ply my trade in a small redwood studio,
at times, sitting on a brick porch,
beneath an orange tree.
at other times, i set my work table up by the pool--
large canvases atop bricks and labor under the sun.
in Brooklyn, i work in a former candy factory,
built over a century ago,
a building of sense and history,
of crooked, aching stairs
and weathered 12 foot ceilings...

the work of either coast informs
the work a continent away…
the murky romance of NYC
soils the vivid promise of California,
just as the chlorinated blues
and olive teals of the Valley
inform the work hanging opposite
the 4 tall windows.


this afternoon, my daughter
and i walked blocks west
to Riverside Park. she was excited
by the action of the squirrels
and the dogs they maddened.
it was a very profound moment for me--
walking the streets with my little girl
holding my hand, or at times, merely a finger.
our steps slowly chewing up the distance
to wherever it was we were going.

at 2 1/2 years old, she has distanced herself
from the frivolities of the stroller--
turning her ambitions to the larger game
of independent mobility.

i mean well, but my good intentions
shade many faults.
however, she tolerates me,
as do my wife and long suffering friends.
there are moments when it seems
all i'm really meant for
is sweeping a dirty floor
in a studio in an old building,
in an old part of Brooklyn
near the Navy Yard.
and then there are times when the paint
is moving so well i could cry,
except that wiping the tears
would be a tremendous waste of valuable time.

and then there are times like today--
taking small steps
through the park
my daughter
holding my hand,
or perhaps,
just a finger...


Monday, January 6, 2014


My second meeting with Alex Couwenberg, was at the opening of a group show at POST, curated by the lyrical artist, Robert Kingston. I was new to the LA scene and had an inclination to drink too much and lay by the pool.

The year before ('98, '99?) our work hung side by side at the Ruth Bachofner Gallery. I was impressed by the idiosyncratic line and surface quality of his art and went out of my way to meet him, as he cradled 2 toddlers...

Fast forward a year later and I made my way to Couwenberg again, offering my hand.

"Dude", he said, "you're red..."

And then he drifted away to more engaging conversation.


15 or so years later, art has been traded, floors crashed on, shows have been shared and de-installed, booze poured and cities threatened...

Now, after a week in Hawaii, surfing, paddling, swimming, drinking and re-visiting childhood haunts, I'm feeding my daughter in the San Fernando Valley.

Suddenly bereft of ALOHA, I settle into and cherish the time allowed me by the vibrant woman-child that calls me Daddy...


I'm driving up the 101 to an "undisclosed location", to sit in on the private screening of a film produced by Couwenberg and his lovely Wife (and force of nature), Andi Campognone.

There are shots and sips of Patron and beers and introductions and finally the film...

I first heard of MANA as a concept tossed about by Andi and Alex as we lounged by my parents pool--
this idea of a film on artists and their relationships to the ocean and it's influence on studio practice.

And life...

Directed by Eric Minh Swenson, MANA is so much more than the sum of it's parts.

There is art. There is surfing. There is, to be sure, Hawaii and a beautiful reverence for it's culture and singular vibe.

But, there is also an experience and understanding offered that is almost as illusive as an accurate English definition for the word "mana".

10 artists and 10 approaches to creation. 10 artists and 10 narratives...

I would short change those involved and the film itself, if I tried to cherry pick one quote of profundity over another; or one frame, or image over another...

I'm no critic...

I'm an artist moved and stoked by the processes of peers and friends.

I'm an artist blown away by Swenson's film.

A film unique and needed.

Gracious and electric.

As vividly poetic as it is earnest...