Saturday, August 11, 2007

Instead of Andy



If you want to see the best and worst aspects of that funny old artform they call painting, then tootle over to the Auckland War Memorial Museum this month. Up on floor three a series of fantastically expensive BMWs painted by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella and other scions of the pop and minimalist art movements are on display. Now, I have nothing against the display of expensive vehicles at our beloved museum, but to me - and, I suspect, to many of you, dear readers - the BMW has always had about as much aesthetic appeal as one of Michael Fay's ties.

Some years ago I had an acquaintance who announced her intention of buying a BMW; I told her that she must be determined to shrink her world drastically, because even though the BMW is an honoured status symbol in a few enclaves of privilege in Auckland and Wellington, it tends to attract stones, keying, and the odd well-placed kick everywhere else. Try parking one outside the Papakura Tavern or the Opononi Hotel on a Friday night - on any night, for that matter. My interlocutor protested that she was far from wealthy, and the car was an old model available third hand for a modest sum. It didn't matter, though: it's the symbolism, not the price tag, that brings BMW owners to grief. If you park a Ford Mustang outside the Opononi Hotel you'll get people competing to buy you a drink and yarn about the inner workings of its engine.

It's appropriate that Warhol and Stella painted BMWs, and not Ford Mustangs or Ford Escorts or white Valiants, because both artists recoiled from an early promise into the sort of sterile, stylish coolness that the art markets love all too well. (It's lucky that Frank O'Hara died before he saw the boldness and humanity of his beloved Abstract Expressionism completely usurped by Warhol's advertisements and Stella's ripoffs of Mondrian and Malevich.)

And no, in case you're wondering, I haven't actually been up and seen the BMW paintings for myself. Who needs empirical evidence for or against their prejudices? I have, however, fed my eyes on the exhibition of paintings by intellectually handicapped artists on the ground floor of the museum. What is remarkable about these paintings, which range from naive to sophisticated figurative studies to wild exercises in abstraction, is the almost impetuous boldness of their colours and brushstrokes. The observer has the feeling that they were created quickly, that they include just about as much as is necessary and, most importantly, that they needed to be painted. How many Warhol canvases can you say that about?

9 Comments:

Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Warhol and Stella were great artists.

I particularly value Warhol. I like the way he repeats things and I think his contribution to modern art was enormous - abstract expressionism was basically dead by the time he started doing his repetitions.

Who would want to go to the Papakura Hotel?

I shudder to think the times I have have been to such places - why I have no idea. The BMW is one of the best machines on the road. Let's get real - people who own them have worked hard and are mostly people of status and quality. Fords are better than most British cars of a similar price - it is true - but they are not as good as BMW's. You could travel to Galbraith's in a BMW with no concerns. Your argument or comment that the working class kick or damage cars at such pubs as the Papakura Tavern or the Opononi Hotel - is basically an argument for the impossibility of socialism - the working class (my father called those who were of that ilk "morons"; and I am seeing more and more his wisdom on this) is simply too corrupt and destructive for such potential Utopias.

At such pubs, the conversation is almost infinitely inane, and violence is de riguer.

7:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'people who own them have worked hard and are mostly people of status and quality'

Is this Richard Taylor or John Key?

8:43 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

We tend to undervalue the qualities of those who have worked hard and made something of themselves. From that class comes much knowledge and most of our great creative people

The corrupt police we see (who raped women and distorted legal truth here in NZ (one criminal was retired from the police on about $100,000!!) crawled from the working class slime (not the "middle class"), - these sick cops, are like Williams Carlos William's "Crazed products of America" - nor was that hard working doctor - and very great poet who had obtained a university degree (and had many artist friends) and some considerable social status and standing; nor was he unaware of human misery - he had his foibles and weaknesses as we all do but his document of a working class city.' "Patterson" - is not exactly hopeful for humanity - yet it is a great work of truth.

Marxism is a valuable tool for analysis but when we consider the realities we tend to overlook enormous corruption of the working class - the depravity of them may be unredeemable.

No one has any idea of what to do or how to do it - how to change - for despite all the knowledge and rhetoric, year after year, and time out of mind, the: "Enormous tragedy of the peasant's bent back.." (Pound) continues.

10:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'If you park a Ford Mustang outside the Opononi Hotel you'll get people competing to buy you a drink and yarn about the inner workings of its engine.' - really? or maybe they're just getting you drunk whilst their cuzzies steal your car? but seriously, what sort of inanane stereo-typing is this blog entry based on? that working class people go 'ug, broomm' when they see a Ford and can't help but smash up a vehicle when its European or some sort of 'rich man's car' it's pretty insulting stuff, on behalf of the working class, I'm offended. Keith.

11:14 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

I know what Maps means by "needed to be painted" and indeed he is indirectly referencing the snobbery of the art world - which some times - that art world - I hate - much as I love art - but we have that world - but if one was to be jagged - one could question why any work "needed to be painted"... is this a 'truth'; or is it sentimental? It is a true response of course, but don't we we tend to see these things by the agency of some social-cultural programming?

I find this all quite problematic as I don't come to any art with a prejudice of a class kind only (of course a class aspect is a part of my psyche but there are other components)- I mean if I had never read Marx or any philosophy (or art comment) that would either enrich or weaken my appreciation of art per se - but my feeling is that Warhol is a valuable artist.

That a lot of (far too much) fuss is made of him by perhaps too many dubious people is a worry - but then who is to say who is dubious?

Warhol was strange: but it seems the case that such strange beings - like the handicapped people - do find original ideas. Pop Art had to stop - its influence is important - but no mode of art can be THE art form - the problem with naive realism though is - well that is also problematic...

Of course to what extent to we read a simultaneous approbation irony AND indifference of motor cars and pop stars or Marilyn Monroe etc or Kennedy or death in car accidents etc? In other words I'm worried that Maps is becoming a dangerously weak bourgeois humanist!

Perhaps in the postmodern world we are liberated from any preconceptions of necessary meaning - everything can be questioned.

Surely it is the idea that counts: not its implementation!??

Surely in the endless stories or tales of cities the idea of revolution is a far far greater thing we do than would be its application which is or would be or could be very messy?

12:22 pm  
Blogger maps said...

It's Keith Murdoch and Richard who are stereotyping the working class by assuming they all drive Ford Escorts and like to eat a knuckle sandwich or two after a few beers on a Friday night.

According to the recent study by the redoubtable Penelope J Hayes, Marxist scholar lately employed by the AUT Economics Dept, 85-90% of New Zealanders belong to the working class, in the sense that they sell their labour power to make a living, or are financially dependent on someone who does.

But this isn't just a question of class - it's also a cultural question. The person who runs a BMW is thumbing their nose at a vague but definitie sense of egalitarianism that still runs through most of Kiwi society. A portion of the upper class, most of the middle class and nearly everyone who lives outside the big cities, as well as the white and blue collar working class, thinks that folks who drive BMWs are, well, wankers.

And they are, even though some of them, like the acquaintance I described in my post, are 'aspirational' members of the working class, rather than genuine certified boorjwah types.

Or am I wrong?

6:11 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"But this isn't just a question of class - it's also a cultural question. The person who runs a BMW is thumbing their nose at a vague but definite sense of egalitarianism that still runs through most of Kiwi society. A portion of the upper class, most of the middle class and nearly everyone who lives outside the big cities, as well as the white and blue collar working class, thinks that folks who drive BMWs are, well, wankers."

How would anyone know what "everyone" thinks - and why should they think that?

I believe in making my own mind up - I am not opposed totally to aspirations of socialism but as a poet I know I wouldn't fit into working class society (I know the working class too well) - well I know that I don't "fit" in to any "class" or culture (I wouldn't last 5 minutes in academia (I know that technically - or in Marxist terms - if one wants to use Marxism - of course I am working class) (but I am so much more!! I am an individual!!) - to large extent I think the important or significant writers and artists etc - greater than me of course - much greater -such as Joyce are beyond class - sure we can analyze Joyce's class etc )'upper' working class to petty bourgeois) but his work aspires to something much higher - he could have written Ulysses - which I happen to be rereading now - and also have driven a BMW as as he loved German (and German culture - Nietzsche was big interest of his) - but he didn't or grow up in a time when every young man or most got a motor car... and his sight was very poor.

I don't think Warhol drove a car either (Wystan Curnow is another who doesn't drive a car - I recall taking him home one night) - Warhol seems to me to be a similar - almost classless being - of course in the technical sense, yes, we are mostly all working class. That is true.

I also BTW am not greatly in love with the art world etc and I know it is exploited by big business which is why - amongst the many artists I like - I am interested in the work of Hans Haake the political conceptualist - but there are many faces of art.

I can also take an interest in say Boltanski, Rebecca Horne, Jenny Holtzer, Beuys or Louise Bourgeois or Cornell, or Dondi White...many others..but I am uneasy about art galleries in general - I am ambivalent - I reserve the right to have multiplex and radically contradictory views.

Murdoch I am not keen on. He and his control and monopolizes the news and almost what we, or many, think; ...he is the: "Gotcha!!" man - of 1982 was it? Or of that ilk.

11:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Wystan Curnow is another who doesn't drive a car - I recall taking him home one night'

that's a dirty lie. wystan is a truckin' man from way abck. ask him about those 'logs' on the state hwy road at murupara!

3:32 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

That's Wystan's cousin - a very dangerous man.

As far as I know he doesn't write poetry - or cavort with Billy Apple.

4:00 pm  

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