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Tony Grist

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Bad Vincent [May. 31st, 2004|10:34 am]
Tony Grist
Last time I was in Amsterdam (about 25 years ago) I went to the wax museum and stood for ages in front of the image of Vincent Van Gogh. He was standing in his cute little bedroom in Arles, looking sorry for himself, while Don McLean's "starry, starry night" played on a loop.

I could have cried.

But Vincent- the real Vincent- was the kind of man you'd have hated to have as a neighbour. Waldemar Januszczak has just completed a series on Channel 4 dedicated to this proposition. He has documented the violence, the drunkenness, the whoring, the syphilis, the paranoia, the attention-seeking, the bad behaviour. Vincent kept being run out of town- and for good reason. In Arles the citizens got up a petition and presented it to the mayor protesting that he was mad and drunk and a molester of women and needed to be locked away.

Just before he cut off his earlobe Vincent confronted Gauguin in the street and threatened him with an open razor. Wake up people, this was not a nice man!

Very little in the legend is true. He wasn't even as unsuccessful as we like to think. At the time of his death he had just sold his first picture and was being hailed by the Parisian critics as the saviour of modern art. Seeing that he'd only been working as an artist for 9 years, that's pretty good going.

But somehow, we've turned him into an icon of suffering innocence. He's the artist as Jesus Christ. A man of sorrows and rejected by men.

But, oh Vincent, I'd have understood you. I'd have sat by your bedside and held your hand and told you how beautiful you were. Me and Don McLean.

[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-05-31 06:03 am (UTC)
Ha ha ha! Now I just can't wait to hear your thoughts on Andy Warhol.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-05-31 06:34 am (UTC)
But I love Andy Warhol. I was at Tate Modern at while back and I came out thinking to myself, "there were two great 20th century artists- Picasso and Andy."

Picasso summed up everything that had gone before and put a stop to it. After Picasso art was dead.

And then along came Andy.

I used to think he'd prove ephemeral (15 minutes of fame and all that) but 40 years on the work is still fresh, still moving. The energies of the century flow through him and almost everything that's been good in art since comes out of him.

He's the man. He's the one to beat. And I don't think we've got beyond him yet.

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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-05-31 07:13 am (UTC)
Really! I love Andy as well, but I have to disagree with you. Andy Warhol killed art. He mocked art mocking society mocking art. That bastard! He was brilliant.

I almost killed my sister to avenge his death. When I was five, shortly after Laurel had been born, a friend of Mother's came to visit. She asked whether I had a boyfriend and I popped in a tape about Walt Disney wherein Warhol talked a little about Donald Duck and I said, "this is the love of my life."

Mother's friend turned to my Mother and exclaimed, "he was a homosexual, no? Brilliant man, I heard he died recently." I didn't know what a homosexual was, but that didn't matter. The fact was that he was dead.

In my mind, the only way I understood the world was in terms of equilibrium. I thought that for every person to be born, another had to die. Therefore--and this little ecological fallacy is exactly why I never went into physics, thank heavens--my sister was responsible for his death.

I saw red. My life was over--my love was gone. I don't think I really forgave her until I stumbled on an article about it, many, many years later.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-05-31 01:24 pm (UTC)
That's a great story.

Did he kill art? I dunno. You see I think Picasso had already done that by having the final word on almost everything. Art was dead when Warhol stumbled onto the scene.

And so he danced with the corpse and some sort of gruesome magical interchange took place and Andy died and art came back to life. But it was a kind of weird, revenant, Andyfied art, utterly different from what it had been in its previous incarnation.

I'm just running on at the mouth. I don't know if I believe what I've just said or if it's nonsense. But the fact is that Andy was a great, great mythmaker and whether one chooses to call what he did "art" or not is very largely beside the point.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-05-31 07:04 pm (UTC)
Ha ha ha! I love talking to you. I agree wholy. I think I should write an entry about my affair with Andy Warhol's corpse. He influenced a lot of my art, actually, though I did not realize it until I got better acquainted with him.

If I can't rock at the Factory and be a superstar, I suppose I will settle for being a pop artist. Move over, Britney, my acrylic stains and I know that's dry-clean only!
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