Being Gustav Klimt


I loved Being John Malkovich, although Malkovich himself I find hard to stomach sometimes (obviously the point of BJM).
I truly love Gustav Klimt’s work, although the poster industry has done a pretty good job of ruining him by sanctioning far too many dorm rooms with The Kiss.

But Malkovich as Klimt, I might not be able to suspend reality long enough. At least they are filming in Vienna. I guess I am coming to this party late as I see now the news about a Klimt movie has been hatched since July 07, 2004 (according to SurfWax).
Film synopsis: A portrait of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (Malkovich) whose lavish, sexual paintings came to symbolize the art nouveau style of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Footnote– Malkovich is also starring in this year in Art School Confidential, coming to you from the Ghostworld team of Daniel Clowes/Terry Zwigoff.
Film synopsis: Convinced that art school will put him on the path to fame, Jerome (Minghella) must come to terms with his anemic talent, as he watches the girl of his dreams fall in love with another student. Then, strangely, he’s arrested as a suspected murderer – only to discover that crime might actually pay.

PS. Pretty funny Metafilter exhange on Klimt including the dorm room reference I was praying for and and a tip off to the book The Painted Kiss (a genre of books I have resisted so far).

Annotated super footnote, I guess I’m on a roll here. ..I saw an amazing exhibit in 1997 in Amsterdam called Wenen 1900: Portret en interieur that literally gave me goose bumps. Two flights down (this was at the Van Gogh Museum) I had been windy winding my way around the huge crowds out to see Van Gogh, as always- hard. Upon entering the top floor though I found this showcase of Vienna Secession artists , forgetting my irritation as I was literally blown away. There were KlimtsSchielesKokoschkas and many of the not so well knowns such as: MollGerstl,Boeckl.
I have the catalogue which is the only reason my memory is serving me so well at the moment; unfortunately it is in Dutch, which in the last 8 years I have failed to learn. The decorative arts in the exhibit were additionally to die for. A wonderful sense of design went into everything from the mustard pot to your door handle. I’m really such a sucker for this whole era.
When I visited the Neue Gallery in NYC for the first time and saw more art from this same period (including an entire room of Schiele drawings) I had almost the same reaction. I’m sure this has been on my mind lately after reading Roberta of artblog’s posting about her recent visit there. It’s quite the gem of a place if you have any interest in German or Austrian modern art. I would link to their website but it appears to have disappeared.



(As seen at the Whitney Museum)

After some optimistic hope that the Whitney could pick up the ball and show some innovative stuff, I have found myself disappointed with their offering in the digital exhibit bitstreams. Nothing grabbed me.

What I took away from the show was, “Wow, that sure was a lot of fancy, expensive computer equipment they hoisted up on the wall there”.

Not one image managed to gel with my brain over the long haul (edit- obviously untrue down the line). The curators voices which read via the accompanying wall text were eager to point out cross references to some of the pieces: “Just like El Greco!” (uh ,no.),” Just like Paul Klee!”.
I imagine as to justify to themselves what the heck this stuff was doing in the Whitney.

Unfortunately, like all multimedia shows,this one had you subjected to a lot of those “little dark room” installations, which unfortunately make me claustrophobic.

I hate going from the bright white light of one part of an exhibition, groping your way into a small, black side room with 20 silhouettes squished up against the wall, that you gradually start to decipher as you simultaneously try to decide if you want to give this piece your five seconds or not.

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Unfortunately another diatribe I can express involves a piece that the Whitney had on display maybe a year ago of Janine Antoni’s “installation”. This piece had you walking mazelike into utter and total darkness- only to be confronted with an image of yourself (surprise-a mirror),which I basically smashed into and screamed loud expletives,something that I am generally not up for shouting in public spaces.
Just fucking hilarious. I hate that kind of crap. I hadn’t come there to be on the Flight To Mars.

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At any rate my crankiness should be taken with a grain of salt, considering I have a thing about my personal space being trotted upon in public situations. So(back to bitstreams) of course a lot of pieces in the exhibit where shown like this.

There was also a bank of audio pieces that you had to stand in line for and when I put the head phones on, I got some asshole’s idea of an art piece- total feedback.
Glenn Branca none withstanding, I didn’t see the merit in that.

So do I have any thing constructive to bring to this?

1. First of all, I think the Whitney was burdened by being a high profile art institution shouldered with the responsibility, shall we say, of convincing people this is art. I think the blandness (for my taste) of the show reflects that fact.

2. My first thought after stepping away from the exhibit was, “this is a curatorial problem”.

3. My other thought was, “the technology is still young and awkward- that must be the problem”.

4. My last thought was – “it’s me, I am stupid for coming here on a Friday night because I am too cheap to pay full admission so I am stuck with the hordes of other Pay-As-You-Wish attendees,which didn’t allow any breathing space”.

One other thing I chewed on was I don’t know if some of the pieces were really justified being blown up to a size for mass (crowd) consumption. Perhaps I am used to being alone at my desk, peacefully grazing.

Lest it appears that I have some vendetta going against digital art,I hope that is not true. I have twice seen the downstairs digital lounge at the New Museum and really enjoyed what I saw. They have presented their works in a more, shall we call it “casual environment” though. I guess there was just something about the presentation at bitstreams that rubbed me the wrong way that night. Who knows.


That same evening I proceeded to go up one more floor and immensely enjoy a quiet, intimate retrospective survey of Kenneth Josephson’s photography. Hardly anyone was on the floor.

Julie Heffernan at P.P.O.W. gallery

At the other end of the aesthetic spectrum from Mr. McCarthy, is the extraordinary painter Julie Heffernan. We found ourselves a few blocks down the way from the New Museum at a Soho’s,P.P.O.W. gallery.

Until a couple days ago,I was not even aware there was not only one, but two shows of her painting in NYC this month. As usual it is always a treat to see her work. In my humble opinion, she is the most talented painter on New York’s horizon. This new work retains its wonderful organic focus,continuing to combine those elaborate Velazquez suggestive self portraits with nature(and landscapes). This time around though she has snuck in bright pigments(lots of pinks hues)and additionally found a way to return to those strange allegorical “paintings-within-a-painting” that I first witnessed at the beginning of last decade. I almost missed this show (it all comes down in a couple of weeks) which I would have really kicked myself over later.

I feel very fortunate that I had the good luck to stumble upon her work eight years ago,for it has been fascinating to see how she has evolved. Her technique alone is phenomenal, I don’t know who as a contemporary, in this country anyway, would be considered comparable. As usual I find it really surprising she has not had more critical attention, although I suppose her quiet subject matter (oriented in the manner of seventeenth century still life painting) doesn’t qualify as hype provoking. All the better for viewers.

At any rate I could go on and on about the pleasure her work brings. A second exhibit of her painting can be found uptown at Littlejohn Contemporary Gallery, which I am hoping to grace with in the next week. At P.P.O.W. I purchased a catalogue of this new work for a reasonable $10.00.