Tag Archives: Red

The Story of Red-Part 2-Apr 10Th 2010

When I arrive at Washington Square Park I ask around and find out the fair doesn’t start until May so I wander a little and take some pictures of the goings on today, so I will let the pictures do the talking for me and after a while I decide to walk up to Union Square. I know there is vendors there almost every week and even in April of last year some of the braver souls came out when I took Mark and Sharon on a cold day during their first day in New York, I’m praying luck will be with me. 

T-Shirt vendor in Union Square

Street artist using powdered sand.

 

An Art Fair at The Washington Arch

When I get their the market and the art show is in full swing, loads of people come here on Wednesday , Saturday and Sunday to buy produce & plants, meats and cheeses, and everything in between. I find myself walking amidst the artists sitting with their work, hoping for a sale. It makes me feel very wretched that I can no longer claim to be one of them. I know that it’s my fault I stopped painting, I always blamed it on other people and circumstances. But as someone once said “A real artist needs only his bread and his art.” Yes in modern times you need much more than that, but the bare bones of that saying ring very true for me anyway, so while I can only use writing as a lame partial excuse for not painting, the fact is that the nights I don’t write I could paint but I don’t. I haven’t painted a thing since 2007.  Why? you ask. Because I let the canvas beat me into submission. I grew more and more unhappy with a painting that still sits on my easel mocking me. It became an all or nothing game of Russian roulette between me and the painting and in the end I died. There was no smoking gun, just an unfinished canvas and ten years of work lying dormant…unseen like some hibernating bear it sleeps, waking years later like Rumplestiltskin to find an art world changed.
 The artist Mark Rothko said that eventually black would swallow red, swallow all color until nothing was left. He believed that artists should starve, that fame is what kills them. When they become a commodity, a pastiche of themselves, they seek a way out.  For Jackson Pollack it was whisky and a Oldsmobile convertible. For me it was Malibu Rum and Coke and an online video game called “World of Warcraft.” In the game I could fight and die but I came back to life and fought again to win. Every time my characters gained another level, another skill, an achievement of any kind, it was like I was winning at life. Soon it became more fun to play with others online than to face the canvas alone, and see who would blink first. So now I know …I did. 

Union Square Artists Work

 This is all revealed to me as I walk through the artists stalls practically reeling with the weight of the realization I’ve just made about myself and my art. Eventually I walk into the regular vendors space and as I come around a bend I see the exact T-shirts I wanted and the girl selling them from last year is back! This is a kind of salvation for me now as I had no idea they sold here and am overjoyed to find the shirts I want, but there is just one small problem. I’ve got no cash and they don’t take debit cards. But luckily the girl tells me that a permanent newspaper vendor set up here actually has a debit machine and he is on the other side of the fair. So I take a long walk back to the artists area and wait my turn to get some dough, and I noticed that there’s many signs up protesting something, so I stop at an artists booth to get the lowdown. It seems that our illustrious Mayor wants to start limiting the number of artists to eighteen who can show and that there will be a fee for the day and that it’s on a first come first serve basis, anyone else will be turned away! I walk back to the girl and pick out the shirts I want marvelling at the stupidity of the people in our local government. The very thing that makes New York special is the very thing they want to attack and destroy or alter in some way and make it less attractive to tourists and the local population, and then when the Union Square market closes down because they took all the good out of it they will sit and blame others for the loss, never admitting it was they who ruined it in the first place. I hope it doesn’t come to that but it’s an old story, around here  on Long Island, local politics have made the suburbs a boring place. Where kids get into trouble because all the venues for fun were closed down leaving the kids nothing to do but invent their own fun on the street. I go down into the Union Square subway station and take it back uptown to the theater district. 

 It doesn’t take long to get back to the theater and needing a sit down and a drink of some kind I go searching for a local bar where I can sit and relax till the show, but this is a tourist section and there’s only loud sports bars and tourists traps, not what I need right now. So I wind up in another French restaurant calles Pergola des Artistes near the theater, it is crowded and I sit at the bar wishing for a drink and an appetizer but finding nothing small and “tapas-like” which I really would have preferred. I order Fillet of Sole Menuiere and French Onion soup to start with a glass of Cotes du Rhone and watch the action in front of me. The woman behind the counter is Marie Ponsolle, she and her husband Jacques opened the place in 1962 and struggled with all sorts of problems including a plumbing and electrical problems, water damage from a flood in the basement and from a fire on the floors above causing flooding  to their restaurant below to put it out, and even a holdup the first week they opened! Now their son Christian runs the place but Marie runs the bar where I sit and with a watchful eye and a loud voice she makes sure the bills are tallied correctly and that the waiters are working hard. I find her a little off-putting and when my soup arrives I tell her it is good but I’ve had better actually. It was murky and greasy and seemed to me to include  the sediment on the bottom of the pot. When my fish arrives it is indeed a huge portion the size of a dinner plate with some basic vegetables on the side that were undercooked and un-inspired, the fish was tasty enough but I have no point of reference so I don’t know this dish. I eat about half and ask for the rest to be wrapped up, the play starts in about twenty minutes and I pay the tab and walk briskly for the theater wishing I had gotten a hot dog of a cart instead. I mean why should you pay 50 bucks for heartburn when you could get it for around $5. I walk past others on their way to food and shows and arrive at the theater and take my seat. 

 The stage is set up just like Rothko’s studio, bare wood floors dirty and paint splattered, canvasses on the walls, stacked up some painted others stark white and waiting. There are tables and ladders, spot lights and a big wooden Adirondack chair across from a huge red canvas hanging from a gargantuan moveable A-frame easel. The actor is already seated in that chair contemplating the canvas before the show starts. It is to say the least an unexpected and un-nerving start to the play…he is motionless. When the lights go down he gets up and lights a cigarette and looks at the canvas, he walks toward it and touches it almost with the reverence a man might touch his wifes nude body while she sleeps. Quietly a  young man enters through the door stage right, wearing a brown suit and shoes, looking earnest and eager he has come to apply for the job of studio assistant. Rothko lays down the law of employment, he’s not here to be his friend, his father, or his mentor. 

  The dialogue between them throughout the play is often raw and un-pleasant, Rothko’s contempt for people in general is very evident and he laces into his assistant many times and mocks his opinions after asking for them. But still he tries to draw his assistant, who is also a painter into the real meaning of art. Rothko talks about Nietzsche, Byron, and Socrates. He tells the young man to become civilised. during the show they actually take canvasses down off the huge easel and put up new ones. They actually finish stapling one on the floor and setting the corners and after placing it up on the easel they both cover it in red primer, Rothko working above, the assistant below whose white t-shirt gets covered in splattered paint! (Later we find out the t-shirt will be signed by both men and offered to raise money for AIDS after the show)  

 In a pivotal scene the  young assistant (who has spent two years with Rothko) finally tells his employer off,  giving a long soliloquy about Rothko’s self-absorption and mis-trust, and finally telling him that he (Rothko) doesn’t believe anyone is good enough to own his art or even view his art. He thinks he is fired but Rothko says it’s the first time he really said what he thinks and  respects him for it. In real life Rothko, after seeing  in the Four Seasons  restaurant in the Seagrams building is distraught. He will not have his work in a place where such pretentious people, will pay too much money for mediocre food and look at each other assessing their worth and comparing their status. Rothko gave back the $35,000 dollar commission and continued to paint his unique vision but in his later years fell in into ill-health, an aneurism made him unable to work high up and he was forced to paint smaller canvasses. Then also ignoring his physician’s advice to quit smoking and drinking he became more depressed. Rothko was growing increasingly unhappy with the art world, and feeling betrayed by the younger artists who he felt had learned so much from people like him, finally took his own life in Feb 1970, slicing his wrists to his elbows in his studio, which was now his home after he and his wife separated. He was found by his young assistant Oliver Steindecker on the floor near the slop sink.

Me and Alfred Molina

The play ends as it started with dramatic music being played on the phonograph while Rothko who has just dis-missed his assistant telling him to get with his friends and start something new, get with them and “do the work” he says holding his face and looking into his eyes the only fatherly advice he gives him. He looks at the canvas alone as the light dims but the red of the canvas glows with an inner fire out of the black like the burning coals of a furnace. The crowd erupts into explosive applause with many hoots and shouts of “Bravo” and the actors appear and bow before us and then leave the stage. I make my way downstairs and go outside and wait a long time for the actors to come out, Eddie Redmayne comes out first and I tell him how good the show was, he is very pleased with the attention but after finishing with us rushes to embrace a young girl and guy who waited patiently for us to be done with him. They are obviously friends and possibly fellow actors enjoying a friends big break, indeed I find out later that Redmayne was interviewed on Charlie Rose, a late night serious talk show. Next Alfred Molina comes out and I tell him that I’m a painter trying to come out of a two-year block and that he has helped me quite a bit tonight. We all take turns taking pictures with him and when all are done he gets into his limo and off he goes, he’s got to be exhausted, two shows in one day. I am too but I stop to help an old woman who attended the show find the bus stop before turning back to go down 8th Ave and Penn Station once again. The wind has died down so I am warm enough in my denim and scarf as I walk the streets and find myself standing before the big board with 40 minutes to kill before my train. So, naturally I go to Tracks for a wash up and a cold glass of Harp on tap. It’s been a wonderful day followed by a profound evening, art changes you, it should change you. With gods help and a little luck I hope to be able to say I have been changed in this way many times before Rothko’s black finally comes. I settle into my bar stool and lean back  sipping my cold brew…lost in thought. 

Peace 

Glen

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The Story Of Red-Apr 10Th 2010

It’s a cool breezy Spring day, typical for this time of year on Long Island, one that finds me sheltering from the wind in the stairwell of the Long Island Railroad Station platform. My train is seven minutes late and I’m getting a late start to my adventures today. The morning found me scrambling to find an in-between coat to wear (which I don’t seem to own) so like many others I’m a little underdressed. Today I’m going in to New York City for a walkabout and to see “Red” an off broadway play about the artist Mark Rothko, particularly about the relationship between Rothko and his young assistant during the time leading up to the completion of the commission for the Four Season’s restaurant in the Seagrams Building in New York.

 He was a tortured man who left an indelible mark on art and the rave reviews it got in London promise this should be a real experience. I have put some study into Rothko and his work but find myself unable to paint color field paintings in his style, I can’t contain my energy and violence, and sexual desire to paint dozens of glazes to achieve the pulsating glow of his master works. But I have also stood transfixed and stared at them in museums until the colors changed before my eyes. This is my birthday present to myself, it’s just 10 days away and so far no one has mentioned it to me, needless to say I’m a little hurt by this since I put so much thought into others gifts and parties. But as I’ll be turning 48 I’m not really sure I care to celebrate, I’m not where I wanted to be at this point in my life, only a windfall of money could solve some of the problems and put into place the things I feel are lacking in life.

  A few weeks ago Anthony Bourdain was in Provence, France filming his Emmy Award winning Travel Channel show “No Reservations” and while dinning al-fresco with his guide he said “everybody in some childlike way craves a life of simplicity, where they have a garden, a beautiful sun, where they can walk into a small town and everybody will know them and wave”. This about sums up how I feel about France and although his guide Ann said laughingly that in his little movie there is no “sweat” and here is considerable work and sweat. The fact is that rural France was a hard place to live always, a rocky terrain not suited to vineyards and the growing of vegetables or livestock, but somehow they made it work. Today of course they survive on the tourist trade to a large extent and what makes downtown unbearable for the indigenous population is also what keeps many people employed, and since I started buying France magazine, I am beginning to be drawn into the desire to see the small towns and villages and less drawn to Paris itself…maybe it’s the thought of being an ex-pat in the future when I’m older and more settled or the thought of being in a town where everybody would wave to me as I make my daily rounds. The guide Ann was very appealing to me, mid 50’s with a full head of long grey hair and very stocky,  she has a very provincial earthy appeal and a great personality, I guess you know you’re getting older when you start fantasizing about older women than yourself and less about the young girls in the seat in front of me. They are chattering away like magpies about everything and giggle incessantly as they talk about school, work , and friends. I can see the face and chest of the girl facing me through the opening  in the top of the seat for the hand-grip. What a clean fresh face with a dazzling smile and perfect hair, she wears a peace sign necklace which rests on her chest, I muse on the thought that a child of the 90’s could hardly know what a peace sign entails, I mean she wasn’t even born yet. Heck, I thought that guys with long hair in army jackets were veterans back from the war who couldn’t stand having short hair cuts, at five years old the Summer of Love was as unknown to me as the student protests and the realities of the war. In back of me a young couple talk in hushed tones and also giggle as they hunch over a new computer phone and app away the time doing God only knows to their friends to cause such quiet hilarity. Oh to be young and in love. We descend into the tunnels and my ears pressurize and I yawn to pop them, soon the streets of N.Y.C.

 I come up into Penn Station and make my way to the 8th Ave subway line, my first goal is to get to the theater and pick up my ticket for tonight, then lunch. The station is hopping as usual with tourists, workers, and people heading for a show like myself, I weave by the crowds  like a motorcycle does through a traffic jam on the freeway and go upstairs to the uptown branch, but I don’t have to wait long as I approach the turnstile I hear a train come in and I hop on easily for the short ride to 42nd St station. It’s an easy walk up to ground level and up the 3 blocks to the theater, the wind is making me a little cold but the sun is out and the full spectrum of sound and color hits you as Time Square looms all around you like a giant robot encircling you with its arms and looking down on us all, its glowing eyes flashing and head spinning. I find the theater and see a line down the block for the matinée of Red in about an hour, a good sign I think as I pick up my ticket and turn around to go to my brunch destination for today. 

  Marseille is a NYC landmark combining French, Italian and Greek influences, and has been in Hell’s Kitchen for 9 years, I have always wanted to eat here but never got around to it. I go inside to get a table but it is packed and loud so I ask to be seated outside and am glad I did, the sun is warming now so I order two items, Soupe au pistou, a garlic vegetable soup I’ve never had and a scramble of eggs with Merguez, a spicy mediterranean lamb sausage with creme fraiche, potatoes rosti, and greens. I also order a decaf cafe au lait which is served in a bowl! This is about as traditional French as it gets. I receive a complementary plate of sliced rye and grain bread with mini carrot muffins and a small plate with jam and 1 pat of butter, I begin to tuck into this and hold my coffee bowl with both hands and smile into the hot creamy beverage as I take my first sip. If I close my eyes I could be in Paris or Marseilles, except of course for the English being spoken around me

The way coffee should be enjoyed!

When my soup comes it is a pleasure for the eyes, lots of colorful vegetables with beans and macaroni in a clear vegetable broth with thin slices of garlic and grated cheese, it is very good and just what I need right now. It’s all I could do to not gobble it up like a dog, dunking my bread and licking the bowl! When my plate has been cleared I wait for my eggs and I am not disappointed, the fluffy mound of eggs topped with creme fraiche and chopped tomato and crunchy onion is wonderful, if you read my post “The Case for Scrambled Eggs” then you know how much I enjoy real scrambled eggs and these were no exception.

Life is not sucking right now!

They are soft and savory with the spicy Merguez sausage being balanced out by the sweet creme, the potatoes however were very greasy and decadent in a bad sort of way but the field greens were in a delicate vinaigrette that I still can’t seem to duplicate at home, altogether a fantastic meal. It’s a little hot in the direct sun but as I sip my coffee I think that this is the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. Next tp me an upscale couple sits sipping bloody mary’s and eating goat cheese and asparagus tarts with field greens and lamb sausage, it too smells great. I pay the check after letting my food go down a little and walk back up to 42nd street station and take the subway downtown to the village, I am looking for some t-shirts to send to Mark and Sharon in England that I saw last year when I didn’t have the money to buy them. I hope the street fair in is full swing as I descend the stairs and hear the familiar rush of wheels on track as I zip through the turnstile and walk for the train doors.

Peace

Glen

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