Sunday, June 23, 2013


Los Angeles artist David Schoffman nurses a desperate need for reassurance. His Delphic exterior is merely a mask for his timorous, almost mousy disposition. 

I met my dear friend in Rotterdam a few weeks ago as he was preparing for his most recent exhibition. Even the title of the show betrayed his deep-seated insecurities.

Made up mostly of notebooks, post-its and clumsy sketches drawn on the backs of napkins, fax paper and ATM receipts the show is a case study in reticence.

Replete with elaborate graphic outlines of unconsummated projects, the show is like a dirge to the deferred, the delayed and the under-funded. What emerges is a sad portrait of a fragmented imagination that is more comfortable with failure than with hope.

Sketch for Immorality, 2009 (courtesy of the artist and Te Veel Swerts Gallery)

Dining out on a questionable reputation for clairvoyant genius, David is able to pass off these puny meanderings as nascent seedlings of potential revelation. (It should be noted that though much admired in Europe, Schoffman remains a marginal presence in his native Los Angeles). 

The credulous Dutch critics were duly cowed.

These past few years have seen a flurry of exhibitions both large and small from my over-productive pal David. While the pundits and academics parse through his every nuance, Schoffman consults with his over-taxed accountant, trying to catch up on his child support payments.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Editions Boyaux has recently released
La densité de mensonges, a riveting though often exasperating memoir by my dear friend David Schoffman.

David Schoffman vacationing in Cyprus, 2013

Why he chose to write this loosely chronological picaresque autobiography in French is an interesting question. (He is currently laboring over its English translation).

A private, guarded and openly misanthropic individual, David probably found it easier to be frank in a foreign language. His French is of the plodding and academic variety, more suited for a Citroën owner's manual than for a work of literary non-fiction. Luckily the Belgian screenwriter Brigitte Chimay Straffe (The Fourth Policewoman, Tchaikovsky's Armoire, Devils) worked tirelessly as his editor and walking Larousse. 

As the title suggests, much of the text should be taken with more than a grain of kosher salt.  
The frequently cited anecdote concerning the menagerie of pets seems dubious at best. Likewise the story about David's awkward "romance" with Louise Bourgeois. 

All in all the book is an entertaining read, especially for those unfamiliar with the foibles of artistic dissipation. Several European production companies are vying for the rights but David is wisely waiting for the English translation and the book's reception in Hollywood.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


After decades of unambiguous unanimity, a fissure, a fracture and an irreconcilable set of bitterly contentious differences has destabilized the academic and critical communities beyond recognition. A new generation of scholars and specialists seem hell bent on reversing years and years of rock-ribbed canonical orthodoxy. Heading the charge is none other than Dahlia Danton whose recent reinvention as an independent critic and curator has left more than a few of her colleagues deeply skeptical if not outright suspicious.

Dahlia Danton in David Schoffman's Culver City studio. 2013

Like many a bolshevik before her, the first privileged targets of her merciless and wrathful revisions have been her closest friends. With hyphenated hyperbole she has called Ximena Lukacs an "anti-philosophical floosie," Moïse St. Pierre a "flat-footed, ham-fisted aesthetic technocrat" and her former protégé Spark Boon an "out-dated and out-numbered dabbler in antique bric-a-brac."

She saved her most venomous and malignant prose for my dear compagnon de route, David Schoffman. Comparing him to Ingres (whom she glibly described as "tight-assed), Danton contends that David dwells in an hermetic bubble where making art masquerades as a noble and ethical enterprise. She challenges what she calls "the metaphysical ballast that constrains his work within an artificial architecture of tact and reason."

She sites his grand project The Body Is His Book: One-Hundred Paintings as evidence for what she describes as "the loathsome onanistic artisanship where quality and depth act as embarrassing exercises in pitiable nostalgia." 
from The Body Is His Book: One-Hundred Paintings, no.76, 2013, David Schoffman
Danton famously wrote in a 2011 essay in the online journal Art(test) that "errors of regression under the shroud of formal significance are detached but never exempt from modernity." She seems to believe that by separating herself from her former colleagues she can successfully allude, in her own ouevre, the "shroud" of obsolescence.

I just think she's still mad at Schoffman because of his indiscreet dalliance with Orestia Shestov.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

´Echec Déchet

My good friend David Schoffman is a wonderful raconteur. In fact, his story telling talents far exceed his limited gifts as an illustrator. This is both fortunate and tragic as evidenced by his latest literary venture, J'accuzzi, a lushly illuminated travelogue of south-central France.

The premise -admittedly, quite novel - is a lush, annotated tour across the vast network of thermal spa resorts of the Massif Central.

from J'accuzzi, by David Schoffman (Librairie Nouveau Déchets), 2013

From the hedge-row valleys of the Bourbonnais to the narrow gorges of Ardèche and Cévennes, Schoffman takes us on a cyclonic junket through the great furrow of the Rhône. From the mesa of Aubrac to the volcanoes of Auvergne, David describes in excruciating detail every resort and every amenity.

In a prose as luxurious as the casinos of Vichy, David captures everything from the optimistic Belle-Époque architecture of Néris to the austere Benedictine abbey of Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul. All along the way, he regales us with small portraits and illuminating vignettes of the eccentric people who frequent these oases of remedy and leisure.

While his watercolored images are in welcome contrast to the typically high definition digital imagery we've grown accustomed to in these types of coffee table publications their obvious aesthetic shortcomings hinder the work's overall effect.
from J'accuzzi, by David Schoffman (Librairie Nouveau Déchets), 2013

 Though I'm not entirely sure who the target audience is for this type of "book" it's interesting to note that the publisher, Librairie Nouveau Déchets, has already deleted it from its catalog.