The Passionate Kingdom
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The Passionate Kingdom<br> By Marc Porter Zasada<p> THE URBAN MAN TRIES HARD to appreciate what contemporary artists create for me. I try to let my spirit soar with the big metal sculptures in shadeless corporate plazas. I laugh with the ironic gestures in pleasant abstracts hung in the lobbies of chic hotels. <p> And yes, I often enter the brightly-lit rooms of great museums. There, I seek out objects made from twisted rag and steel pipe, bicycle wheel and colored plexiglas. I stroll expensive hallways hung with passionate smudges of ink or blood. <p> I know these works have been created for me and so I read the little cards, and I really do try to feel how a pile of soap boxes -both occupies the consumer society and is permeable to it.- <p> And, like most urban men and women, I usually fail. The rags remain rags. The boxes, boxes. And the museum remains a passionate kingdom I enter as a stranger - a palace of obsessions that belong to-someone else.<p> But at a Westside party the other night, I met a man named Jacob Samuel. He lives in the passionate kingdom all the time. Jacob prints etchings by famous artists like Ed Ruscha and Gabriel Orozco. He enters into their obsessions, and gets them down on paper. <p> In a brazen moment, I tell Jacob I really want to -get- contemporary art. I really want to see the emperor-s new clothes. <p> -Do you?- he asks, sizing me up. <p> -Who else was this art created for?- I say. -Don-t I live in the megalopolis? Don-t I own many consumer goods? Don-t I cope with industrial society?- <p> And so, on a bright Santa Monica morning, Jacob opens his clean white studio, and we sit at a small table, where he throws down catalogs filled with strange and shocking images. A crib made of test tubes. A welcome mat made with pins. A man with a toy locomotive coming out of his mouth. <p> On one print, tacked to the wall, a Greek artist has scratched three lines with his fingernails. <p> Jacob-s manner is intense, but I have pledged myself to honesty, and I tell him that try as I might, these images do not move me. <p> And then, at last, he pulls out a box of prints he made with a woman named Mona Hatoum. These were created when she took many strands of her curly black hair and laid them carefully on a small copper plate. The etching is perfect, almost as if the hair itself were floating in a waxy pond of paper. <p> -It-s not literature,- says Jacob. -It-s not music. It-s not religion. It just is.- <p> At first I-m repelled -- and then sure enough, a strange stillness creeps into the room. For a moment, influenced by his faith, and drawn into the obsessions of this unknown woman, I enter the passionate kingdom: -I see. It-s her own hair.-<p> And a week later, when I venture downtown to MOCA by myself, I bustle eagerly into the galleries, carrying a little tape machine to record my thoughts. Here-s a room of ironic wordplay.<p> Here-s a little pile of sand in front of a mirror.<p> I stare. I try again to conjure the stillness of the studio and enter into another person-s obsessions. But now I have no Jacob Samuel standing by me like an angel of revelation, and once again the Urban Man feels like a stranger in the brightly-lit palace.<p> Once again, I fail to see the emperor-s clothes.<p> Copyright - 2004 by Marc Porter Zasada, all rights reserved.<br>
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