Tuesday, October 15, 2013


My dear friend David Schoffman is considered by some to be an artist of only collateral significance. He is generally perceived to be a man capable of dazzling facility only to be hopelessly encumbered by the damp bog of third-rate, secondhand, stillborn ideas.

This assessment may be corrosive but it is well-deserved. His ecumenical approach to art and culture is simply unhygienic.

 He seems determined to alienate his peers and further anger his enemies. He is the anti-networker, the lonely gadfly, the elevator flatulator and the clamorous self-rightious contrarian. Unsurprisingly, his recently published Syllabus of Errors will earn him few new friends.  

A manifesto containing no less than 80 artistic offenses, this odd document appears to be rather catholic in its condemnations.

Take for example Error no. 56: 

Any reference, allusion, quotation or tangential association with popular culture damns a work to the purgatory of the fugitive, the temporal and the temporary. It is therefore unsustainable for serious works of art to engage in any dialectic which relies on faddish extra-artistic references. 

  If I'm reading this correctly this puts the full kabosh on the likes of artists like Giotto whose frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel were essentially the Tin Tin of the Trecento.

To be perfectly candid I've had it with Schoffman's bookish, brainy, highbrow hijinks. If he succeeds in alienating me he'll have nobody left and that would be error number 81. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


Artists are a sectarian bunch. They defend their fictions with an unguarded vehemence. They cling to the conceit of their own election. Their alleged agency is like a prized heirloom of conveniently forgotten provenance. Oh, how they gasp at their imagined stature among the Titans!

That they do so is only evidence of an existential terror for as Leopardi famously noted, "Man is stupefied to see in his own case that the general rule is shown to be true."

In the case of my dear deluded and paranoid friend David Schoffman the general rule is that artists, or for that matter people in general, can and do learn to draw adequately well. Somehow, he has convinced himself that he alone is the last honest draftsman, the lonely standard bearer of line, the Cronus of color, the Cerberus of form.

Seeing the World at a Slant, watercolor and ink.

His sketches can indeed be interesting, but just that and no more. They bare his stamp the way bedsheets carry the imprint of a sleeper - unique, yes, but not terribly so. Swift quirky scrawls, a few quick splashes of muted color, a clever arrangement of solids and voids and voilà a Schoffman! 

Unfortunately he feeds on the fermented honey of highly inflated critical acclaim. The recent Figura y Forma exhibition at El Palacio de los Tres Encantos in the newly renovated downtown of Logroño featured no less than fifteen of David's inkwash hors d'oeuvres. One critic gushed about the "damp, lacerating reservoir of feverish lubricity in every stroke of the pen" ("húmedo, lacerante depósito de lubricante con fiebre en cada trazo de la pluma"). Another described the drawings as "curt, clever cadenzas of chiaroscuro and a pageant of plangent depictions of hot flesh" ("cadencias inteligentes rápidos de claroscuros y un desfile de representaciones plañidera de carne caliente ").

Danton and Schoffman in Los Angeles, 2013

Schoffman has now persuaded himself that the jewel of genius is his and his alone. The delusion is so complete that he has accused his fellow Los Angeles artist, Dahlia Danton of the larcenous lifting of his linear ideas. He thinks he owns these shallow contraptions whose only virtues lie in their playful competence and quaint conventionality.  

Danton, to her credit, does not bother to attach any blathering hyperbole to her copious cache of sketches. When asked about the work by Vernissage editor Dolphy Cane, she confessed to "dashing them off at bus stops, in taxis and whenever I have a few idle moments where I need to pass the time."

Brueghel's Meat-Mill, pen and ink, 8 x 6 inches, Dahlia Danton, 2013

Bus stops and taxi!?

In Los Angeles???  

Tuesday, October 01, 2013


For some the ravelled sleeve of care fades like a dying animal as soon as the heads hits the pillow. Others toss in spasms of discomfort until the balm of black night lulls their consciousness into bewildered oblivion. For my good friend David Schoffman there is no tepid torpor that dims his active mind. For David sleep is just another form of work.

The clouds don't open nor do exquisite visions appear before him like necessary angels. He hears neither voices nor is he visited by the dead. What happens to David while he sleeps is the product of a disciplined meditation, a specific diet (beets and lentils in olive oil consumed slowly no less than three hours before retiring) and tight pajamas, especially around the armpits and groin. 

What he hopes to induce with this unusual regimen are dreams frozen in pictorial frames that he can adapt in the studio upon awakening. This admittedly eccentric practice is one derived from the Hualapai Indians of northern Arizona where elders typically rely on sleep and peyote buttons the way we might depend on psychoanalysis to tap the chords of buried motivation. (Beets and lentils may not be as effective as peyote but David finds them safer and easier to digest).

On any given night, a few faded recollections lodge themselves like flinty bayonets into the stream of Schoffman's thoughts forcing him out of the bed to make a few quick sketches.  

Dream Drawing #1877, watercolor and ink on paper, David Schoffman 1998

"I haven't slept a full night in thirty years," he told me the other day, concentric rings the color of bathroom mildew girdle his eyes as evidence. 

I'm not sure if all this is worth the effort, after all, David isn't the first artist hoping to open the doors of perception in unconventional ways.

I suggested, years ago, that he dispense with his silly rituals and enjoy a couple of pieces of candy before going to bed. Both Orwell and Sainte-Beuve did this and they swore it helped their writing. 

Another approach might be a nightly snifter of brandy and a couple of valium.