I spent some time downtown today. I started at the Strand bookstore, which advertises "18 miles of books". Their selection is good, except for science fiction where it is mediocre, at best. I ended up with a book of Sarah Vowell's anyway, so I can expect some good laughs.
Then I met Bryan at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art. The Whitney's permanent collection is small but excellent, with a large number of pieces by Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keefe. I kind of think that Grace Vanderbilt Whitney might have been fun to know back in the day. And there was much good in the rotating collection too. But one problem I have with more experimental art is that so much of it is opaque.
Now, I do not know every detail of art history. In fact, I know just enough to be dangerous. But I'm better informed than most people, and in most areas I can at least come up with the right questions to ask. But some of this stuff made no sense at all.
My brother tells me much art is incestuous, in that there is a small community doing it, and everybody is looking at everyone else so without the context of the ongoing discussion you can't really understand what's happening. I think he's right there. Nor do I have a problem with experimental art. Someone has to push the boundaries, and if artists are watching each other then someone will see bits and pieces of the edge, and then bring it back to the center. Nevertheless I think they've missed the point.
If art is to be judged by any standard it is in its ability to communicate what the artist intended. If you have to be in the 'in crowd' to get it, the art is too narrowly drawn. Of course taken too far my description would elevate Brittany Spears above Richard Thompson, not a distinction I would choose to draw. But I ought to at least 'get it', even if I don't want it on my walls.
But there was one masterpiece. A faux trailer for a remake of the film "Caligula" which had my sides splitting. Somehow they got a number of top actors to participate in this faked trailer, including Helen Mirren, Milla Jovovitch, Courtney Love, Karen Black and Benecio del Toro. Not to mention Gore Vidal himself.
Those of you who have seen 'Caligula' know. Those who have not need only know that Caligula is a film you will never, ever forget no matter how many psychoactive drugs the people in the white coats feed you. It is, well, like nothing else.
This parodied trailer used the most explicit parts of the film and the cameos to poke fun at the Bush Administration, merchant ivory film trailers, Shakespeare, and pretty much everything else you can imagine. I hope it becomes available soon, because if you're at all cynical and deeply resistant to being shocked, you'll love it.