With Passion and Gusto: The Listeners Speak

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One of the rewards of speaking my mind on the ups and downs in the art scene is getting to read your responses to my programs. Sometimes it is just a few words, but on occasion, it is a passionate and eloquent soliloquy. Today I want to share with you some of these responses. (The rest you can read at KCRW.com/arttalk.)

Werner Herzog, "Hearsay of the Soul," 2013
The Getty Center
Courtesy the Getty Center


When the Getty Museum organized a special event at which German movie director Werner Herzog interacted with his collaborator, composer and cello player Ernst Reijseger, it turned into a surreal performance, which made everyone in the audience feel happily trapped in the fourth dimension. Here's from someone who was lucky to attend this sold-out event: "For me it was a revelation to see a cello and the musician improvising…leading the way…exploring…creating… rather than as usual following someone else's orders… We were lucky to be there…"

"Cutie and the Boxer"

My review of the documentary Cutie and the Boxer, the story of two fascinating artists, married to each other for 40 years and still exchanging punches, artistic punches that is, elicited appropriate punches from you. "This is ART? I don't think so…you lost me on this one. To me its just garbage. And bohemianism does not art make. Yuk!!!!" Hmm… that hurts a little. But hear this one. "Yesterday I went to… see it… because I hated the title I was certain I would hate the movie…I was swearing at you for your recommendation…then…lo and behold…the movie began…and I was entranced…I never dreamed I would be so deeply moved…I even cried...Brilliant movie about two wonderful interesting…artists…who are also two struggling injured injuring human beings…"

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, c. 1965
William L. Pereira and Associates, architect
Photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA, photographic archives

To tear or not to tear, that is the question; big, unresolved question when it relates to he proposed erasure of the original LACMA campus in favor of Peter Zumthor's ambitious proposal. My Talk, Pereira the Maverick, Pereira the Fool? received some feisty responses on both sides of the equation. "There are many reasons not to do the Zumthor building, but saving Pereira's mediocrity for posterity is not the reason in this instance." The next response does a complete 180. "I like LACMA. I enjoy its history. It's a waste of money and time to tear it down." And here is my favorite comment, "Having gone to USC…I spent my graduate years…there in the 1970s…oppressed by the commercial aesthetic of the school and cheesy architecture of the Pereira firm…just because we have memories on that awful campus (museum or University)…is no reason to preserve them."

(L) Portrait of J. D. Salinger on book cover
(R) Portrait of Ranier Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

In last week's Art Talk, I quoted from a new biography of J. D. Salinger, "The war broke him as a man and made him a great artist; religion offered him postwar spiritual solace and killed his art." I also speculated that many Van Gogh masterpieces would never have been brought to life had the artist been cured of his encroaching madness. Here is the first angry punch from one listener. "Spoken like a true atheist. And your point is-------?????" So what can I say in response to that? Guilty as charged. Yes, I am an atheist, and I am grateful to the inner demons that tortured creative geniuses like Salinger, Rilke and Van Gogh. The art world would be so much bleaker without the struggles that fueled their art. Here is another short reply, one that supports my sentiment. "Either we create or we pray. The two do not go together!" Here's another response. "…we live with ‘gods' and ‘demons'…They are forms of energy that keep us moving. They are ours and we own them. Harness them and use them in order to persevere."

I can easily imagine what a great time all of us would have sitting at a table, drinking and arguing about all of the above. Hey, who knows, one day it might happen…Meanwhile, here's one last comment for the road, "Edward, amateur psychology is easy and very dubious…it's OK for conversation, but putting Rilke, Salinger and Van Gogh in the same boat I don't believe gets us anywhere. Say what you want, but it is really self entertainment."


Banner image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Standing Self-Portrait, (1652); Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna