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Can Someone Please Get Me an Art Education?

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by LamontPaul, for outsideleft.com
originally published: June, 2005
I felt once again like I was in the presence of greatness
Preferably over dinner and drinks at JiRaffe.

Researching last week 3x ABSTRACTION: NEW METHODS OF DRAWING, the newly opened show at the Santa Monica museum of Art featuring Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz, and Agnes Martin (Untitled, above), I'd somehow managed to scribble down 'Agnes Read' while driving and getting the details about the event, getting the details totally wrong. So, when Google-ing and artnetting Agnes Read revealed little of consequence... apparently Agnes Read has a church named after her and had ascended to sainthood but, not much in the way of art... I returned to my source to discover my error and that Agnes Martin (nee Read) is indeed a significant presence. It also help that I checked that typically her work was fetching in excess $1.5 million by 1990. To fully understand the profound position Agnes Martin, and also Klint and Kunz hold in the great arthouse on the hill, note a Museum key person, of their work, she says, when you see it, "This changes everything."

It can be a little bubble-like at the Santa Monica museum of Art, located as it is at the Bergamot Station, it kinda feels disconnected even from Santa Monica and further from Los Angeles and the rest of America and the entire world. Or perhaps thats just me. It can be quite gray in there too, at times. At times such as these. So much so, George Herms appears sprightly at 80 or whatever the hell he is. So, thank god for Patr??n.

Outside the gallery, at the Bergamot station, Patr??n, as a sponsor of the show are peddling the good stuff. I think about my contribution to the evenings sartorial elegance, limited as it is, to beige argyle socks showing through the blue Hugo Boss sandals I'm wearing into their second summer. Yes, you can see the socks, clean through. Suddenly, the aspiring young artist Jory, (like Prince, he is Jory) spills a large tumbler of Gran Patr??n onto my sandal and it permeates through the die cut holes and into my sock. I wonder whether he would have done that had he been paying for it. "You just spilt your drink on his sandal," someone says. "No I didn't" comes his reply and three of us look at the floor as I dry off my sandal on the calf of my trousers. There's a shoe-toe shaped space on the ground, surrounded by a puddle, and we've all seen enough episodes of CSI to know this is evidence. Earlier, his girlfriend had mused that Jory would make mischief this evening.

Jory gets us all more drinks.

Nearby a burly Christopher Hitchens type, cream-ish suit, pleated pants, way too large for the wire birds nest room, art of Jill Bonovitz's (in)Penetrable Vessels in which I had encountered him earlier. He dwarfed that space. His size, his blustery-ness. At least his clothes fitted and suited him. He's diminished that Tom Wolfe lives. Which is far more than can be said for the surrogate Austin Powers on hand... although, credit him for something, those Brain's specs. Yes. Good specs. He's not so bad from the temples up to just beneath the crown.

Back in the Museum, 3X Abstraction curator, Hendel Teicher - all perfectly Pleats Please, all Issey Miyake or maybe Commes Des Garcons (Someone can be certain about these things. That person isn't me...) cuts a excellent dash, her accented European english lends a hint of authenticity to the feeling of cultural supremacy and she looks not unlike, while being the antithesis of, Blythe Danner's Dina Byrnes. That means something. Hendel pulls those assembled into the work. Much of it dates back to the first world war. Some Europeans then it appears, were not particularly perturbed by the rumblings in those Flanders Fields. But that's splitting hairs. There's a tremulous uniqueness to these minimalist pieces, all hellbent and deceptively bloody-minded as they are.

Hendel, coolly full of insight and invaluable information for me, has presented af Klinz and Kunz all over the world, yet, hysterically, she was no match for the Santa Monica audience. Anything informed by Asian philosophy, healing, spirituality or even the mention or hint thereof is red meat for the 90401 set. There was blood in the water as question after question concerning the extended pretensions of the artists and their work peppered down... The healing had begun and happily I can report Hendel did not pretend to comprehend this preoccupation from the "Overpriced loaves from Wild Oats? Yes Please!" authorities in the crowd. She swatted the questions as one would a lugubrious fly. Perhaps, I mused wilfully, the noted healer of the bunch, Emma Kunz had taken her drawings and simply rubbed them on the ill? a-ha... Controversially eschewing all that we now take for granted about lead.

So, I'd recommend avoiding all of the dubious bolt-on latter day subversion of simple philosophical principles that could ruin an otherwise rivetting show. Being there, inches from the paintings and drawings, - and you need to get close - created as Teicher said, with the simplest and most elemental of tools, oddly reminded me of being in the same room as Norman Mailer. I felt once again like I was in the presence of greatness.

3x ABSTRACTION: NEW METHODS OF DRAWING runs until August 13th at the Santa Monica museum of Art at Bergamot Station and is unmissable. More info: smmoa.com

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