People smarter than myself have advised me to read Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar for, oh… about a decade. I finally got around to it. I rarely read something that makes me feel smart and dumb with an oscillating frequency similar to my windshield wipers on intermittent. Hickey is a critic, a linguist, a Texan, a music geek, a lapsed art dealer and the most optimistic malcontent I have ever read – but I have only read this book.
This is not a review of the book but a recommendation based on the fact that I think we (us we, not Hickey and I we) have a love of art and the culture that surrounds it. The art we love differs but that we love art does not. Hickey politely picks apart his professional career with little concern for what will be left after the autopsy. The chapter entitled Air Guitar offers this nugget in the first paragraph: “People despise critics because people despise weakness, and criticism is the weakest thing you can do in writing. It is the written equivalent of air guitar – flurries of silent, sympathetic gestures with nothing at their heart but the memory of the music. It produces no knowledge, states no facts, and never stands alone. It never saves the things we love (as we would wish them saved) nor ruins the things we hate.” It gives you a sense of what he was thinking about when he named this book of 23 chapters (that he refers to as Love Songs) by the title Air Guitar.
Also, it pretty much sums up this endeavour.
I had the opportunity to see Mark Flood: The Hateful Years at Luxembourg & Dayan a few weeks back. Mark Flood is one of those artists (and Texans) I didn’t really know but I imagine I should have. The press that surrounded the Hateful Years (still open) and will surround the Artstar 2012 show at Zach Feuer (Open until October 13) should make sure that you know how many ways a writer can pun on his name. The deluge (see what I did there) seems warranted, but who knows for what reason. I haven’t seen the Feuer show but plan to see it and the Jonah Freeman Justin Lowe collaboration at Marlborough Chelsea on the same day so I can bask in all the traditional gallery show subversion at once.
Hickey and Flood seem to be cut from the same cloth in many ways. They poke and prod the way we talk about and engage with art. Flood’s remade objects and his collages from pornography and advertising are simply true. The images aren’t true in any obvious sense, but you see the handmade forms matched and married and you know that the hands that put them together built a new version of true. They are ugly in many of the right ways. His better known lace paintings are in direct response to a Dave Hickey comment. Flood states: “Hickey made me realize that I made ugly art. But that’s what I thought art was about—if you made something beautiful, you were suspect. A sell-out whore. I asked myself: who does this serve? I was inspired by Hickey to explore the idea of beauty as a way to say fuck you to art bureaucracy. When I discovered how to make something beautiful, I no longer needed any art bureaucracy.”
Flood’s Hateful Years show is punk rock to my eyes. Flood is a hater, professionally. His disdain for the artworld is on display. Can we blame him? Sometimes we need the funhouse mirror to distort the view so that we see the grotesquery of our daily work, or something like that.
Flood’s work, hateful and saleable alike, proves many things about the world of artists that we haven’t yet clapped eyes on. To me its another in a series of obvious wake up calls to go see more art than what exists in my immediate line of sight.
Since I have no punk rock cred, no Texas history and generally no understanding of what it is like to be an outsider for decades only to find that path to acceptance was paved with Fuck You’s and technicolored lace; my judgement can be summed up by Flood’s latest work: “Whore Museums, Gutless Collectors, Blind Dealers, Alleged Artists.” Sometimes the fun house aint so fun.