Saturday, February 15, 2014

City of texture ii: a time of testing

The New York Landmarks Conservancy
won an injunction last week in its
effort to preserve a fragile tapes-
try by Pablo Picasso, an artist who
keeps making law and making history,
even as he keeps making artists, as-
suredly, of some few every year who
chance to discover his works.

They are who will inherit our cities,
they are who will reflect our cities,
not the legal fictions known as cor-
porations, trusts, foundations, or
boards, authorities, and all the en-
tities that cower by laws, before a 
power ostensibly untouchable, imper-
ishable, flowing from an untenable 
posture known as private property. 

Private property, as every schoolboy
knows, has air rights. Air rights, 
can you stand it, when possibly you
had thought literally unfathomable
mineral rights were amusing enough.

These interesting rights place such
a burden upon human character as lit-
erally to enslave it, for it may not
lay down its perpetuation. What sort
of burden is this, that a free soci-
ety need countenance, as the intol-
erable exposure to risk that it is,
to its future, much less its past?
For surely, too, are we not as cul-
pable for the ordeals of rights we
impose, as for those we withhold?

Were it not for this unremitting,
stark challenge to protect privity
in the right to property, would we
Or, if not compelled, bent so low?
As much as any city needs to be a-
ble to protect itself from chaos,
every time this inhumane right com-
pels the soul to break beneath its
unnatural load of ownership, so 
does the slave to private property 
deserve our shelter from a wealth
which should never have been in-
flicted upon him. Trade him a set
of Sixties baseball cards, and  
throw in the gum at cost.

i           Abel van Oeveren
iii, iv   Martin Conte

Friday, February 14, 2014

Consuming love

    Charles Chaplin lived
    very well and made no
    bones about it.

    In his art he created
    a figure than whom no
    one has lived better.

    If I were to envy any
    man, anything, it may
    be his gorgeous sense
    of pure extravagance.

    He achieved it, and I
    can't believe this is
    not why he's so loved.


Charles Chaplin
City Lights

Eric Weiss

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Possibly nothing

    Is this just a Southern
    problem, or is this the
    case where you live, al-
    so? Here, possibly noth-
    ing so undermines disci-
    pline as our calamitous
    confinement in a sudden


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Two for the biathlon, please

Not being the sort to turn one's back on demand, for a civil morning satire on any seasonal festival of sport, I found myself shut out at the Zermatt ticket window, the Swiss having decided that it's all very well to fleece the world for a priceless glimpse of glossy slopes, but never too many of us for very long. Hence to the Finland station and its well-traveled path to a Winter just as incontestable, and just as meticulously exclusive. A well run Winter is no accident; but then, a distinct sentimentality invades the responses of us all to the sparkling season; and I have to confess how my own take a turn to marksmanship. 

I caught this bug at the movies, 
through the masterful process 
photography of one of Mr Hitch-
cock's benchmark British flicks, 
in an opening scene of very nif-
ty shooting at some soigné Swiss 
establishment which, along with 
celluloid itself, has doubtless 
gone the way of all good things 
in hands that never knew, it was 
not about the money. Like you, I
am only sorry that the inventor
of the Kalashnikov expired this
past year, on the eve of mother
Russia's gaudiest exhibition, un-
der a regime so steeped in its
virtues as to make its knowing
too much as chilling as the sea-
son. But we are all men of the
world (if you'll excuse the 
phrase), as we turn to sport.

I keep repeating the mantra, Security is Good for Me, but I must admit, I've always traveled to get away from it. This, too, inspires a jaunt to Russia, where even an undesirable stands an even chance of being ignored. If I wanted the joys of soccer mommying, I could have stayed at home on the telephone, and let our morbid little police state keep its beady nasty pinpoint on my person. Can you imagine, what elation and relief there must be, in the sophisticated, indifferent presumption of guilt? The load off one's shoulders, the curiosity lifted from one's purchase of a coffee? But I stray. 

I don't admire the enrich-ment a hypocrisy toward our presumption of inno-cence brings, to a new totality in the state's invasion of our existence. With the reversal of that presumption we see an inordinate obsession for evidence of every kind, magnifying the enormity of intrusion with de Sade's zealotry for trivia. I am not interested in the excuses our ostensible Conservatives have for this seduction of the republic. With them, it has always been about the money, and fear is a dandy diversion. But now we know, this is beyond the Putinesque, this sodden puttanesca.

Alfred Hitchcock
Charles Bennett,
  Ivor Montagu and
  Emlyn Williams
Curt Courant
The Man Who Knew 
  Too Much
Gaumont, 1934©

John Russell Taylor
  The Life and Times of
  Alfred Hitchcock
Pantheon, 1978©

  Marquis de Sade
Philosophy in the Boudoir
  or, The Immoral Mentors
Joachim Neugroschel
Francine du Plessix Gray
Penguin, 2006©

v  Photo Hedi Slimane

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bidding to be arrested

Last call: Twelve hundred.
Two thousand!
Two thousand?
Twenty-one hundred!
I'm sorry, sir, but we can't ..
Make it Twenty-five hundred!
My money's as good as anybody's!

You remember, I remember: it is 1959
and Alfred Hitchcock is making a mov-
ie of which we wouldn't change a line;
and now, a man at an auction of paint-
ings is anxiously trying to be arrested.

At the same moment, the new art city, in
the phrase adopted for the reigning his-
tory of Manhattan's art world at the time,
is witnessing the opening of the defining
building, of a movement which survived the
Spanning the rear of its entry floor, a
restaurant is being readied as a gathering
place of optimism in a renewing world.

perate man can still court disgust if he 
has enough money. Evidently the owner of a
controlling interest in the building cannot 
that his money is as good as anyone's. Can't
this Maecenas buy himself an embassy somewhere?

When, do you suppose, they will ever learn, it was never about the money. 

In the revolting, frenzied meltdown of all dignity, since Thatcher and Reagan, iconoclasm of all stripes is simply a boutonnière of cheek, and we have seen this exuberant vulgarity strike at the absolute heart of optimism, itself, already in Manhattan just this year. I give you a malign cropduster, who passes his glove over the dust on Michelangelo's tomb sculptures and offers to pop for their replacement with crystal domes by Mauboussin. They cost more; oughtn't they be more worthy? As his arrest warrant, yes.

It could never have been about the money at this building or this restaurant. It could only, always have been about the rarity of what is possible to do in public to give hope. I have admired the popular play on Mark Rothko, for good, sufficient reasons; I never did concur in his objections to this setting. I would not have believed anyone could be so dense as not to see, or so intolerant as not to permit, the innocent existence of a beloved place. 

For generations, people have gathered beneath the work of art this fellow openly reviles, tak-ing shelter from such brutish-ness. A legitimate worry, well developed in New Art City, that new art was threatened with being reduced to mere decor, was suspended in that place by a reassuring brilliance of procession, layer, line, and scale, which is as close to timeless as anything built in that century, all focusing a single, simple inference with éclat. It actually is all right to be alive. People can create beauty, and they can share in it.

Now let us make a party of in-heritance, right here.

Alfred Hitchcock
Ernest Lehman
North by Northwest
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959©

Jed Perl
New Art City
  Manhattan at Mid-Century
Knopf, 2005©

David Segal
At Four Seasons, Picasso Tapestry
  Hangs on the Edge of Eviction
The New York Times
February 3, 2014©

Martin Filler
Taking Down Picasso
The New York Review of Books
February 7, 2014

Paul Goldberger
Why Picasso's 'Le Tricorne'
  Must Remain ..
Vanity Fair
February 7, 2014

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Philip Johnson
Phyllis Bronfman
The Seagram Building
375 Park Avenue

The Four Seasons
99 East 52nd Street

Pablo Picasso
Le Tricorne
Les Ballets Russes

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Walden Street

Sometimes, when I think of how
little that any reading has af-
fected my life, I don't so much
search my memory for exceptions
as run into them in the street.
When I can't tell a bannister
from a bike rack, from a riot
barricade, I know I can count
on the street to provide the
defining distance to sort this
as acquired in the reading that
we all once had to do, of Henry
David Thoreau. To the Greeks'
unanswerable perception of the
validity of distance to portray
form, he brought the argument
of its necessity to furnish con-
text, and portray meaning. What
made it fundamentally unforget-
table, was that he argued this
in terms of human relations, to
give framing to our dialogues.
Was there a more pressing ques-
tion when we first read Walden,
than how to extract that magic?

This principle, so obvious on the
stage, and so pressing in every-
day life, never loses resonance
of its original source. In later
education - in the US, that is -
it was impressive to find, how
pervasively Thoreau's discovery
remained acutely attributable, in
the minds of new friends from all
over the country. Without having
to mention it, it would be appar-
ent as we gauged our distances in
dialogue, we were conscious of a
scruple which arises in our being,
with a footnote that we all accept. 

Henry David Thoreau
  Life in the Woods

Eric Weiss