Wednesday, March 20, 2013


It is a mixed blessing for artists well within the fluted straits of mid-career to be suddenly lauded by the young. Panegyric praise tacks a bit too closely to eulogy. Unequivocal valediction is more redolent of ashes and incense than the vital stench of sweat and sperm. I caution my good friend David Schoffman against callow critics bearing gifts.

The young Brooklyn wunderkind Spark Boon was in Los Angeles recently kissing the ring of one of the art world's greatest recluses. Picking paintings as if they were fresh strawberries, the flamboyant critic/curator (is that not a conflict of interest?) is assembling a retrospective of my easily flattered friend's work.

New York critic/curator Spark Boon reviewing work in David Schoffman's Culver City studio, February 2013
I've plowed this fetid field before. A few years back I was seduced by the fetching femme-fatale of academia, Orestia Shestov, into submitting to a week's worth of inquisitorial privacy probing masquerading as 'research.' Sure it was flattering at first to be grilled by a gorgeously bookish intellectual but it didn't take long for the entire ordeal to deteriorate into a catechism of recriminating innuendo.

Orestia Shestov, 2013 (photo courtesy of Plangent Press)
With a voice as commanding as a Cossack, Shestov accused me of all manner of artistic negligence and fraud. She cited the work in my 2004 exhibition, Croquis Salaces at the Musée
de la Ferraille Culturelle in Bordeaux as an example of what she called "classic retreads"- "
paraphrases retravaillées de thèmes fatigués" - (Shetov speaks a beautifully nuanced idiomatic French albeit with a Alsatian accent). She latter published a none too subtle hatchet job in the widely read Hors de Propos, costing me innumerable sleepless nights where I plotted elaborate revenge fantasies.

All I'm saying is that Schoffman should be skeptical of the honey tongued flummery of budding, ambitious arts professionals. To them, old fossils like us are merely opportunities - thin pretexts for their own petty, parasitical aggrandizement.

Shestov made sure to feather my loins before she twisted the dagger into my throat. I just don't trust that character Boon. Just look at his moustache!


Monday, March 11, 2013


For an avowed aesthete, my spartan friend David Schoffman lives a life of cultivated immunity. If this seems like an obvious contradiction it's because his unsystematic, self-abrogating lifestyle is just an elaborate form of hypocrisy.

Some admire his 'purity' - he eats neither meat nor kidney beans (the latter said to resemble too comfortably the form of a human embryo), owns neither a computer nor a telephone and restricts his philandering to those over the age of majority - though most see in his behavior a perverse form of Baudelairean dandysme.

It's unpleasant socializing with him, he abjures too much. He is my inverse reflection, my antipodal doppelganger, my corresponding counter-comrade and the fact that our friendship has endured this long is a tribute to the irrational. I, as an unapologetic gourmand, a lover of food and wine and noise, find being around David with all his severity is like being enveloped in a dark medieval cloak of overbearing piety. Even his musical tastes (if you can grant him the charity of having any taste at all) are spartan in the extreme. Anything beyond the homophonic jolts him into spasms of anxious agitation. It's as if a deviant voice or an independent rhythm might threaten his equilibrium. 

Perhaps he conserves his felonious impulses for the studio. His paintings reflect the opposite of his celibate demeanor. They are plush, grandiose, sybaritic romps of sensuality and excess.

Few people know the wild side of Schoffman. Most just witness his overt pretensions to high cultural priesthood. But in his studio, with his doors locked and his halogen kliegs tilted to Euclidean perfection, David is a libertine monster of luxury and over-statement. It is the only place he feels completely at home and it is there, and only there where he finds that vague, sloppy sensation that some refer to as 'happiness.'

A Symmetry of Edens, oil on linen, 11 x 6 feet, David Schoffman, 2013

Sunday, March 03, 2013


Adifa Khadan, the well-respected, under-appreciated senior provost of Madrid's famed Instituto de las Artes Plásticas is mostly known for her dry wit and impeccable organizational skills. It's been said that on any given day, Khadan knows precisely how many paper clips and ball point pens are on the desk of her less than fully trusted office manager. She has a photographic memory, perfect musical pitch and is fluent in seven or eight languages including Ladino and Sanskrit. She has single-handedly transformed the Art Institute from a bastion of pre-Republican agitprop kitsch to one of Europe's hotbeds of avant garde, cutting-edge. post-modern conceptualism.

Adifa Khadan 2013

So successful as a college administrator, it is often forgotten that Khadan is a prolific and widely collected painter of note. Her recent series of large scale pastels, "Moses Crosses the Nile" was exhibited at Pagis/parish in New York and though it was greeted by the critics with mixed reviews, the public was unanimous in its indifference.
By contrast, an earlier series of works. "Myopic Prophets," a large scale suite of works-on-paper based on the litergical music of the south Saharan Berbers is still considered the most lucid, graphic argument in support of Edward Said's thesis of Orientalism. 

My good friend David Schoffman in his new role as international art world impresario has recently curated a show of Khadan's work from the early eighties when she was still very much under the influence of Latin American artists like Micah Carpentier and Don Juan Al Azar.

This mixed-bag of uneven ditherings serves as further proof that artists should avoid university campuses the same way lions should stay clear of zoos.  Either you stay in your studio or you teach.
You can't do both!
Adifa Khadan, 1986

Adifa Khadan, 1986

Adifa Khadan, 1985