Pop. Of course. How could it not? I mean Jay Z versus Marina Abramovic? Gimme a break. Though their stare contest is pretty amusing. And it was kind of genius to have her in the mix: performance meets performance! I could kick myself for not being there. Had I known in advance I would have used every art world connection I have. My doppelganger, art critic Jerry Saltz, was there (I used to be mistaken for him all the time. Once, in a Chelsea gallery, the woman behind the desk asked, “When did you get the hairpiece, Jerry?” I said, “That’s not a nice thing to say, I’m not Jerry Saltz and do you think I’d pay for this lousy hair?” She said, “Oh, c’mon, Jerry.” There have been numerous other times equally funny and strange. I’ve thought about going home to Roberta Smith to test it out then thought better of it. And if you don’t believe that we were separated at birth check us out on Bravo’s “Work of Art” then look at the emails, “Are those guys brothers?”)
But back to “Picasso Baby,’ the event, the video, the clashing of worlds—high art and mainstream pop—and every one of those art people looked happier than I’ve ever seen them because 1, scratch most artists and there is/was a latent R&R star (think Talking Heads), and 2, practically every visual artist I know rocks out in his or her studio, music blasting while they work although no one is filming them dancing (though I sometimes imagine it—lights, camera, action: now paint and look natural doing it!). But let’s face it, art fame ain’t nothin’ next to pop fame, and never will be.
Clearly Jay Z is a genius, we all know that, but this was such a great idea and so outside the realm of most pop stars—bringing things together, black and white, uptown and down, art stars, music stars, celebrities (Rosie Perez, Alan Cumming), starting the video with the empty gallery, Jay Z’s name of the wall like any other “artist” having a show, Jay Z even signing prints, then the performance itself harkening back to 60s “happenings” but more fun—and with no pretense of “Art.” I never saw so many happy art people rockin’ out, and at the Pace Gallery of all places— Marilyn Minter, who I knew years ago, all startled smile and dancin’ so cute— gallery dealer, Sandra Gering (who was my student at the New School in a class I used to teach, “Understanding Contemporary Art,” long ago, Sandra yet to open her gallery and me in my twenties (okay, maybe my thirties, but no more), Sandra beaming and throwing Jay Z’s timing off— Andres Serrano of “Piss Christ” fame, not dancing just staring straight into the camera all art world hip maybe thinking, Hmm… What about Piss Jay Z?— artists George Condo and Lorna Simpson and Fred Wilson all star struck and OMG Lawrence Weiner, the grand old man of conceptual art looking like the man that time forgot grinning like he just discovered music or was just let out of captivity. And did anyone ever see Marina Abramovic smile so much (even know she could smile?) though her approach to Jay Z is downright predatory (“This is my turf, Jay Z. Uh, sorry, Marina, wrong.) Personally, I’ll take a Jay Z performance over a Marina Abramovic performance any day of the week. I love music, always have, and I’m a musical lowbrow though I’ve spent much of my life being an art highbrow. And no question Picasso would have liked the use of his name, little Pablo who filled his paintings with popular notations, Miss Stein’s card, “Ma Jolie” (a popular dance hall number at the time), and Jay Z bringing it all down to commerce: “I just want a Picasso, in my casa.”
“Picasso Baby” is like the best, slightly pretentious party in town with genre walls crashing down. And then it’s over, Jay Z pulling away in a limo which sort of says it all, doesn’t it?
I’ve been thinking a lot about music this summer, which I listen to when I paint and like anyone who is trapped indoors in a studio choking on oil paint resins music keeps me going, and this summer (before “Picasso Baby”) it was all about Robin Thicke. I know, I can’t believe it either. But I’m happy for the guy. I mean, he’s been around forever and finally hit BIG. Blurred Lines is just one of those great feel good get up and dance songs, and um, let’s talk about that video, the unrated version, which I’ve watched a couple of times (okay, maybe forty times but who’s counting?), and never get tired of it even if it does distract me from painting though after so many viewings I can see it in my mind when the song plays (sometimes I’m thankful for my visual brain).
I know there’s been some feminist backlash to the video, and okay, there are three clothed men and three almost naked women (Monet’s “Luncheon on the Grass” comes to mind), but everybody seems happy and I don’t think those young women were forced to take their clothes off and if that gorgeous brunette, Emily Ratajkowski (yes, I looked her up), doesn’t become a star I’ll be surprised. Robin Thicke holds his own against the girls and the guys— TI (who dances up a storm while you’re thinking, Hey TI, relax dude, there’s a nude woman next to you so no one is really watching)— and Pharell Williams who could (if the naked women were not there) steal the video with his subtle moves and sly smiles and hoots and shrieks. I think the unrated version is better than the clothed version not only because it’s shocking but beautiful. Yeah, yeah it objectifies women but what’s wrong with a celebration of the young and beautiful? (Oh, I know I’m going to get some responses to that.) Hey, maybe next time the guys will take their clothes off.
10/17/13 POSTSCRIPT: OK, ladies, equal time. It’s only fair. And this is pretty hilarious. But how come they couldn’t get the guys to wear G-strings?