Friday, December 4, 2015


 One of the problems (which I fortunately don’t have to face) of being successful in the art world is that you get stuck in a style. The examples are legion of dealers asking artists to stay with the work that sells. Don’t blame the dealer; it’s a business to him. He’s not interested in the artist’s immortal soul; he just wants to pay the rent. There’s nothing worse that being told to do “another” painting like the one you just finished because there’s a customer for it. If that’s okay with you, then you should consider yourself a commercial artist, a perfectly legitimate trade, where you know from the getgo that you are providing a product and the buyer is determining the nature of the product. Most artists I know look upon a painting as a problem to be solved and once having solved it, are reluctant to keep repeating themselves.

On the other hand, most great artists loved variations on a theme. Like Mondrian, Cezanne, Monet; once they got something going, they were perfectly happy to explore it the rest of their lives. There are some artists, however who create problems for their dealers by wanting to stop painting the work the collectors want and move into new territory. Jackson Pollock was the perfect example. It’s sad when a successful artist gets boxed in my his success: mortgages, employees, property in Majorca, wives, ex-wives, disturbed children, all take their toll. Selling is no longer an option; it is a necessity….and that’s the end of any change or growth. They become captives of the market and their work deteriorates. Of course, like Basquiat or Modigliani, some artists solve the problem of repeating themselves by dying young, before boredom sets in.

This is a long-winded way of getting to the subject of today’s blog. If you haven’t been to my studio lately, you are in for a big surprise. The ditzy ladies, the corrupt politicians, the sultry sirens, the greedy developers have all been replaced by a kind of serene surrealism. That’s because I am finally moving away from my “day job” as a preservation consultant. I still plan to write a newsletter, but I am done with the battles. However, it was the battles that gave me subject matter, my “edge” and without them, I don’t feel the need for social criticism. The same thing happened to George Grosz when he fled the Nazis and came to America. He loved it here. He lost his raison d’etre and. I, having lost my “opposition” have retreated from reality into the unconscious. I’m now painting dreamy surrealist streetscapes, the kind of work people actually want to LIVE with. Although this is not my goal (never has been), I have been selling most of my recent work and find myself trying to talk people out of buying so I will have something for future shows. I tell them to tape their names on to the back of the canvases so they can claim the pieces later. My prices are still pathetically low (I’ve never been good at business) but before, I couldn’t give the work away. While people may have admired the old, satirical paintings as “art,” they didn’t want to be reminded in their living rooms the foibles of a corrupt society (which it still is) and that success usually goes to the least worthy among us, not the best.

I like the fact that as my life has changed, my artwork has changed with it. Every once in a while, I find myself going back to satire: pulchritudinous females, corrupt real estate developers and politicians. The results make me smile, but there isn’t the need for “revenge” any more. My head is literally in the clouds, painting imaginary cities that float in space. 

P.S. In bed at night, watching TV, I cut figures out of black kraft paper and in the morning, paste them onto paper plates (“Arte Povera” style) or put them on the overhead projector where they can be enlarged to monumental size. I have nothing to sell, but they are so breathtaking, I don’t care.
I haven’t missed a meal yet. 

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