"I work in the gap between art
As reported in several online outlets this morning, including on the NY Times' website, American artist Robert Rauschenberg, who helped shape the face of 20th century art, died last night (May 12) at age 82.
Always prolific and diverse, the Texas born artist worked in numerous mediums throughout his career. He was a painter, sculptor, photographer, choreographer, printmaker, stage performer, set designer, and even a composer.
"I think a painting is more like the real world if it's made out of the real world," Rauschenberg once said. He was hailed by London's. Sunday Telegraph early in his career as “The most important American artist since Jackson Pollock."
Perhaps most importantly, Rauschenberg was instrumental in guiding the direction of American art out of Abstract Expressionism, the prevailing art movement in the beginning of the 1950's, when he first emerged. As accurately noted by the New York Times, he built on "the legacies of Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell and others, he thereby helped to obscure the lines between painting and sculpture, painting and photography, photography and printmaking, sculpture and photography, sculpture and dance, sculpture and technology, technology and performance art — not to mention between art and life."
Twenty years ago today, May 13th, 1988, legendary west coast jazz trumpet player, silky vocalist (has anyone ever sung "My Funny Valentine" better?), and once gorgeous bad boy, Chet Baker, fell to his death in Amsterdam from his hotel room window. Of course, there has been a wide variety of conspiracy theories and speculation regarding the odd nature of his death. Because Baker’s life was so full of mysterious and scandalous details, a life full of intrigue and questions, why shouldn’t his death have a similar story line? I guess there is a possibility of some vendetta at play here-- at least once before in the mid 1960’s he had his teeth knocked out over a drug deal gone awry, why couldn’t another drug dealer, years later, just shove the poor son of a bitch out a window? Well, there were no signs of a struggle in his hotel room and the door was locked from the inside. Then could it have been suicide? Doubtful-- there wasn’t a note, and any person determined to kill themselves probably would have rented a room higher than two stories above the sidewalk. Sadly, Chet's death was an odd, common place accident; it’s just one of those way people accidentally meet their maker. Chet Baker simply fell out of a window. There was heroin in his system, and a considerable amount of cocaine and heroin in his room. He probably went to open the window, and simply leaned a little too far west, and lost his balance. Anyway, it’s been two decades since his death. Right now I have Chet Baker Sings on the turntable; I’m sipping some good Catholic Irish whiskey, hanging out in my new abode. Everything is perfectly copasetic. Thanks.
As a child I spent many of an hour dumpster diving, trash picking and rummaging where I shouldn’t have been rummaging. In my neighborhood, Wednesday was the night-- trash night. I’d sneak off after dinner in search of treasure, check out all the neighbors' garbage cans, boxes of junk curbside, apartment building dumpsters, and I’d be back home an hour or so later, laden with exotic booty from the world over. My mom would usually yell at me to get my latest cache out of the house, “That crap might have bugs in it, for Christ sakes!” But it wasn’t all infested! In fact, I still have some of that ‘crap,' and some of that dumpster swag still decorates my parents' house.
Over the years I’ve lugged home great pieces of furniture, collectible books, pottery, artwork, glass wear, jewelry, you name it … and once I found something that altered and twisted my thinking forever. I found it right there on Franklin Avenue right down the way from the Shakespeare Bridge in the Los Feliz district in Los Angeles. Stuck to the bottom of an empty trash can was an LP from 1963 on Vanguard Records, Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo by Sandy Bull. Back then I was just an innocently corrupt thirteen year old Catholic school boy, but already on the long path I’m still unraveling today-- that of a musician. I had just started taking guitar lessons, and as could be expected, I was struggling with all the important fundamentals: getting the hang of bar chords, finger picking, playing those newbie-guitar standards like “House of The Rising Sun” and “Knocking on Heaven's Door,” and trying to convince my parents to let me grow my hair long. Anyway, I got home, I threw this Sandy Bull record on the turntable, turned it up and it blew my freakin’ pubescent mind.