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Friday, May 31, 2013

Coromo In New York, parts 1651 - 1654

 1651. Then there was the advantage of his being psychotic, which is not an indispensable trait for the outsider artist, but certainly a great benefit.  Adolph was encouraged by his warders to draw, and was given full sheets of blank newsprint to work on. He was also provided with a pencil about once a week which, having nothing else to do in solitary confinement, he managed to use down to a tiny stub in a few days.

1652. All his life he covered sheet after sheet of newsprint with dense and elaborate patterns and figures operating under the rule of “horror vacui,” which is a fear of any empty space. The term horror vacui is not quite accurate however because it is his subtle juxtaposition of intricate line patterns with small areas which are nearly blank, combined with a overall underlying patterns that are constantly becoming skewed, that give the work its awkward charm.

1653. One can see that he endeavored to create works that had an underlying rigid geometry, and yet his rigid geometry would constantly veer off in a way that must have baffled him, like a horse that has its own idea about where it wants to go regardless of the intent of the rider. More than anything else, that distorted geometry is the key to his work in that it directly expresses his plight: a man who, regardless of the efforts he made all his life to do a certain thing, found himself constantly condemned to do the opposite.

1654. The drawings he made are like the crimes he committed, because in his mind, like Frankenstein’s monster when he encountered the child, he means no harm but his inner corrupted geometry leads to a catastrophe.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Coromo In New York, parts 1647 - 1650

1647. A still life of a dead cat in an ornate vase might do just fine. One asks, “Why a dead cat,” and since there is no ready answer, the work is acceptable. If the artist says something like, “I paint the dead cat because one can never trust gardeners who water plants in the dark,” then all the better.

1648. The collector is searching for contradictions, inexplicable juxtapositions and outright insanity coupled with crudity of application and the lack of all technical skills. 

1649. Let us consider a classic case to illustrate the point: Adolph Wolfli. Wolfli was an inmate of an insane asylum is Switzerland at the beginning of the 20th century. What brought him to the asylum? He was convicted of abusing children, and when he arrived at the asylum, being a violent person, he was held in solitary confinement, staying in solitary for many years.

 1650. He spent his entire life in the asylum, dying in 1930. As an outsider artist he had many great advantages, first how could he fail to succeed with a name like Adolph, which marks him, to modern sensibilities, as a man utterly cut off from the rest of the world. Then there was the question of his crime, the sort that, more than any other, excludes the perpetrator from the human community.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Coromo In New York, parts 1643 - 1646

 1643. The subjects of the naïve artist are often perceived as childish, and indeed, often the character of the artist himself strikes one as childish. Collectors prize these attributes and search for them, and many artists whose work falls into this category are actively collected.

1644. Naïve artists being untrained, they often do not even consider themselves to be artists at all, and as a rule have little knowledge of the traditional artists materials. Instead of oil paint they might use house paint; instead of canvas they perhaps might decide to paint their pictures on shirt cardboards or paper bags, roofing slates, or plywood.

1645. But the technical considerations are nowhere near as important as the mental makeup of the naïve artist. Collectors look for outlandish personalities, even going so far as to invade prisons and mental hospitals looking for the schizoid personality who is obsessed with making pictures to the exclusion of all else. Perhaps the work they produce defies any explanation, all the better.

1646. If the purpose of the picture is obvious then the collector will reject the works outright and not even bother to consider it seriously. If the artist is painting flowers because flowers are pretty, then the work has no place in the collection of the expert.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Coromo In New york, parts 1639 - 1642

1639. The teacher suspects that his student is skeptical or even deeply critical of the professor’s theories, ideas that have embroiled the professor in controversies, and so he draws himself up to his full height and delivers a dissertation rather than a simple answer to a question. Such was Mr. Cronk’s response to Coromo. 

 1640. “God,” thought Coromo, “these art types sure do get involved in complicated arguments about what pictures are all about.” Here is Proctor Cronk’s answer to Coromo’s question, it is a little didactic, but it can’t be helped because Proctor Conk was a didactic man.

1641. The paintings we have on this wall of your restaurant are considered naïve, painting. Some refer to it as naïve, and others call it art brut. Others always refer to it as outsider art. The works in this style have certain characteristics in common. Since the artists have not been trained, their works lack aspects you find in most of the works of trained artists such as perspective for example.

1642. In a painting in which perspective is used things in the distance are smaller than things in the foreground: the farther away a thing is, the smaller it is depicted. Things in the foreground are larger and more detailed; things in the distance are less focused, bluer, and more vague. The naïve artists do not use any of these devices. Things in the distance remain large and just as detailed and chromatic as things close up.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Coromo In New York, parts 1635 - 1638

1635. When Coromo returned with the salad and bread rolls he found that the man was taking photographs of his paintings with his cell-phone, and then when he brought the main course he found him sending the images out in an e-mail to someone with his iPad. Later, as Coromo was serving him his coffee and desert, Proctor Cronk was looking at an enlargement of an image on the screen of his iPad. It was a picture of Coromo’s signature.

1636. The signature had been changed, the C of Coromo had been changed to a K, by the addition of a vertical line but it was easy to see that the K had once been only a C.

1637. Mr. Cronk’s interest in the paintings was of such a sort that Coromo felt he had to find out what it was all about so he asked the man in as casual a way as possible what the significance of the picture being painted on a canvas was.

1638. It was just like when a student in a college classroom asks their professor a question about a subject that is dear to the professor’s heart, a question perhaps that the professor had written a book about, a subject the teacher held controversial views about.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Coromo In New York, parts 1631. - 1634

1631. Mr. Cronk was about sixty, gone to seed in a rich man’s way and wore ill-fitting expensive clothing. He looked at you over the top of his bifocal glasses, and his lower eyelids did not manage to touch the eyes they were supposed to protect yet this oddity, like his accent, gave to his face a look of sad conviction, his eyes seems to say that he had suffered and even shed tears in the process of coming to the conclusions he might be willing to impart to you.

1632. It was Mr. Cronk that was looking at one of his paintings very carefully one evening when Coromo walked up to him and asked him if he was ready to order. Now there are people who take an interest in paintings, and then there are people like Mr. Cronk, who really look at paintings. They don’t just look at them; they examine them like a doctor looking down the throat of a patient.

 1633. When asked if he was ready to order, Proctor did not even answer the question, so absorbed was he in the examination of Coromo’s painting. He even took the picture down from the wall, turned it sideways and examined its edge, looked at the back and then hung it on the wall again.

1634. Coromo again asked if his patron was ready to order and he got this mumbled reply, “This is just a commercial canvas, the sort made up for art supply stores, but yet the work seems to be an authentic outsider's work.” Then, as if coming out of a reverie Mr. Cronk proceeded to order his diner. While waiting to be served he again took a picture off the wall and proceeded to examine it from every possible angle.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Coromo in New York, parts 1627 - 1630

1627. The difference between Henri Rousseau and the opera singer Mrs. Jenkins was that Rousseau’s paintings could be found in Museums and in his art history book, and Jenkins was mostly forgotten unless you searched for her in Google. Coromo decided in the end that the question had no answer. He thought about the difference between Mrs. VanDusenberg and the restaurant manager about the Bouguereau paintings. In the end it was not a question of right or wrong, or of good or bad. In short it was a question with no answer at all. 

1628. The world was a very big place, what one person loved another hated and there were even people who might pretend to love things they actually though insipid. It was a difficult subject to think about especially for a person without the word "kitsch" in their vocabulary.

1629. As far as Coromo's attitude toward his own paintings, his ideas were disrupted one evening because of a new patron at the resort who, from his first day, evidenced a marked interest in his paintings. The man’s name was Proctor Cronk, he was about sixty; he was from Great Britain. He spoke with the sort of English accent that gave everything he said an immediate authority, an accent making it impossible to doubt his judgment.

1630. It was not like one of those German accents, which lend to the English language a tremendous dose of authority, but yet leave the listened with a lingering suspicion that it is not authority based on years of knowledge or research, but instead it is the sound of a misplaced and unjustified intellectual vanity.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Coromo In New York, parts 1623 - 1626

1623. Yet he was not happy with this line of reasoning and another voice in his head started in on the argument saying, “Alright then what about some of those paintings you saw in that art history book that Mrs. VanDusenberg gave to you. Just onsider that painting of Judith cutting off the head of that man, did someone buy that painting because they though it beautiful and wanted to look at it all the time?”

 1624. “That’s different,” he replied to himself, “because paintings like that are done to be hung in museums, and so people look at them once, like going to the movies, and perhaps never see them again as long as they live. So, like in a movie, the scenes may be horrid and yet they are fascinating, and one can stand it for a while but one could never live ones life with images like that.”

1625. Later he overheard a conversation about an artist names Henri Rousseau. Rousseau was an artist he was familiar with from the art history book. Apparently this Rousseau had been made fun of by other artists because of the simplicity of his paintings. However Picasso, finding one of his canvases for sale in the street, respected his work and sought him out.

1626. Picasso held a banquet in honor of Rousseau, but the banquet was intended both as a gesture of respect, and yet at the same time, it was conducted in jest. Rousseau was a simple soul, the sort who played the violin in the street in his old age to supplement his meager pension after he retired from being a toll collector. In short, he was nearly a beggar.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Coromo In New York, parts 1619 - 1622

1619. One night his worst fears about false praise were realized when he overheard a long discussion in the restaurant. The patrons at his table were discussing the life of a singer by the name of Florence Foster Jenkins. Apparently there was a Mrs. Jenkins who lived a hundred years ago who considered herself a great opera singer even though she could not sing and had no sense of rhythm. With no talent at all she was able to sell out a concert at Carnegie Hall.

1620. The concert was sold out because people bought tickets just for the comedy of the situation, going to the performance for a laugh. Even though Mrs. Jenkins saw that people were laughing at her, nevertheless it did not alter her conviction that she had a fine operatic voice. Coromo listened to this story of Mrs. Jenkins but he did not believe it. Later he even looked her name up on Google and discovered that indeed the woman was just as the patrons described.

1621. “But,” thought Coromo, “That happened to a singer. They went to the concert and laughed at her and it was all good fun. But tell me now,” he interrogated himself, “ did they buy her records and take them home and play them over and over again?”

1622. “No Coromo,” he answered himself, “music and movies and stage plays are different than paintings because you see them once or even twice and then you forget all about them. But when a person buys a painting they take it home and live with it, perhaps for years. So it is practically impossible for anybody to buy a picture they really think is bad, just for a joke, because then they will have to live with it.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Coromo in New York, parts 1615 - 1618

1615. How could Coromo know so much about the paintings of Uncle Thomas? He visited him regularly to bring him his painting supplies and to give him his money for all the painting that the tourists were buying was the explanation. With the money Uncle Thomas would buy lots of strong drink, which he claimed, gave him all of his good ideas, which he was able to paint even without the aid of stencils using a kind of mental telepathy.

1616. There were many reasons why Coromo did not want to be responsible for the pictures he painted. The most important was it allowed him to listen to the comments of people who looked at his paintings. Once he started to make pictures he soon discovered that people were never willing to say anything critical to an artist for fear they will hurt the artist’s
 feelings. He had only been painting a short time but how many times had he heard about how, “beautiful” everything was that he did, he couldn’t even count.

1617. Then there was also the consideration of his own evaluation of what he was doing. Sometimes he was certain that he had invented something very special that only he could do and he had a real gift he had not been aware of, then at other times he felt just the opposite, he thought it was all a silly kind of scam and he was robbing people to take two hundred dollars for something that was just some paint smeared across a piece of cloth.

1618. But if it was a scam, he had not invented it because it came about of itself. On the other hand, perhaps the tourists were taking advantage of him. Money did not seem to mean anything to them so perhaps the explanation was they were just making fun of him and leading him on just for a joke. Would people spend hundreds of dollars so as to have a laugh at a person who has been made to think something stupid they are doing is valuable?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coromo in New York, parts 1611 - 1614

1611. Coromo all the while was becoming famous unbeknownst to himself or anyone else. In a way he was even worse off than Otis because Otis was aware of the significance of what he was doing, but Coromo thought his success was just an accident, and he refused to take credit for his paintings and would instead make up imaginary people and credit them with the work when he was questioned about his paintings on the walls of the restaurant. 

1612. He would say with complete conviction that the paintings were painted by his Uncle Thomas, a ninety-year-old blind man who had the shakes because he was always drinking too much alcohol. If he was asked how a blind man could do the drawing he said that before he went blind he made stencils to use as a guide for the drawing. He gave the same reason to explain why a dog would be half purple, and the other half painted yellow.

1613. When he was waiting on tables it was the children of the tourists that were most apt to ask him questions about the paintings, and for them he would make up explanations of interest to children, so he might say, “The reason the dog is two colors is because children sneak into his room when he is painting and switch the colors around but he doesn’t know the difference.”

1614. Uncle Thomas claims that purple feels different than yellow when you paint with it so he can tell the difference, all the while painting something with green that he thinks is pink. The children complement him on his paintings and give him advice saying things like, “Make the shadow the tree casts on the ground darker,” meanwhile substituting the white for black. Thy never laugh because that would give away their pranks.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Coromo in New York, parts 1607 - 1610

1607. “You know,” said Buboni, “I hardly think it is possible to convey the effect of a work of art which is performed on the stage using only words. One has to ask how much is lost when one condenses a visual event into a series of sentences. The answer is, almost everything. The subtleties we see with the eyes are of a different sort than the nuances we hear with the ears.”

1608. With that banter Buboni tries to assuage The Duck’s feelings about his failed story. Then, just out of playful spite Buboni woke Aunt Jemima up and asked her what she thought of the Otis story. She may have been asleep but she had a ready answer.

1609. “My feeling about Otis is the same as Huckleberry Finn’s feelings about Moses, when he said, ‘The Widow Douglas got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people.

1610. The only thing I find interesting is the part about Otis creating something that becomes well known and respected and yet he gets no credit for it. Not only does he receive no credit, but also there is nobody who even suspects that he is the creator of the Grapepox Skit. Now lets consider this question of attribution, the question of if it matters if you are recognized for the things you have done.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Otis The King, parts 1603 - 1606

1603. The General’s Mongovian army was desperately in need of a new director of its field kitchen, because all of the previous staff had died just recently of either Typhoid Fever or food poisoning, most likely both.

1604. My father and I, being farmers were well acquainted with the field kitchen of the Mongovian army, just as we were equally acquainted with the field kitchen of the Lusitanian army. We had endured numerous visits from these individuals. We knew exactly why those troops suffered from typhoid fever. Typhoid Fever was our specialty.

1605. “Please Duck,” said Buboni, “no more stories about the plague and Typhoid Fever, we have had enough of the subject. Look here, you have put Aunt Jemima asleep with your preoccupation with death suffering, and the dogs of a thousand years ago. Let’s now change the subject.”

1606. The Duck was not surprised to see he had lost the interest of his audience. To Buboni the entire story seemed no more that a pointless fairytale, and as for Aunt Jemima, she actually had fallen asleep.