Sunday, December 21, 2014

PAYING FOR ONE'S SINS


I've always considered David Schoffman to be mon meilleur copain - my very best friend - but the sentiment hasn't always been repaid in kind. To expect meticulously calibrated reciprocity in matters of amitié corrupts the clarity of tenderness with the arithmetic of peddlers and so I've learned to detach.

And yet it still unnerves me to think that within that cultural wilderness called southern California, a place where the intelligentsia concerns itself with things like rainfall, property taxes and leaked executive salaries, my good friend David is marinating like a cornichon in sweet brine.

His latest "inspiring colleague" is a fellow named Harry Cohn, an unpublished poet of book length parodies in iambic verse. They met at a self-help seminar ostensibly devoted to what the organizers described as "the odysseys of older men," a euphemism for diminished virility. Seeing the sunset of sex is a terrifying vision and as misery of that sort abjures the company of unsympathetic youth, the old codgers get together twice a month to cry on each others bifocals.

I suppose I can't blame David for preferring dear Harry to me. Those who follow my work realize in vivid color that I've still got plenty of foreskin in the game. It must be hard to watch but he only has himself to blame. What did he expect with his meatless diet and endless exercise?

It's already been established that after the age of 55, low cholesterol and low libido are linked like mountaineers. Forget oysters and kelp, cognac and marijuana are the proven aphrodisiacs. And take it from a Frenchman, nothing beats dark tobacco non-filtered cigarettes to keep the southern circulation flowing. 

But I can't expect to convince Schoffman of any of this. He eats more kale than a fatted calf. And if I'm destined to pay for my nutritional infractions I'd rather suffer without the help of a support group in a conference room.

I too have learned how to make new friends.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

ASHES TO ASHES, DUST TO THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY


Nothing beats near-death in getting a guy to face his facts.

While the specter of shame lurks like a hatchet, we the clever idiots, deny what's obvious and conceal the rest. By the time we're finally ready to dice our delicate fictions into harmless lies the damage has already been done.

Shakespeare called us "poor players" only he was wrong about the strutting. We crawl like beggers before the enormity of our charade.

We're all fakers but there is no greater faker than my good friend David Schoffman. He pretends to pretend, rendering his pretensions the majesty of farce. He calls himself an artist but his artistry lies only in his mocking self-regard. In truth he fools no one and by so doing everyone was equally deceived.

This all came crashing into clumps when he came face to face with his god (or was it his G-d? The story changes with each retelling).

A rare rectal infection had Schoffman picking the lock on the Gate of Pearls and for a while we all thought he was a goner. I was writing his obituary in my head when a nurse came (strutting) over to me with the news that his vitals had perked.

I greeted the information with a mixture of gratitude and disappointment.


David now justifies his Gnostic inactivity with the same revolting intolerance that characterized his earlier defenses of work. With his slickly polished prose he waxes like a grifter about the ecstasies of nature and the beneficence of sloth. 

The man is tiresome beyond measure and had he succumbed to the incubus I dare say we all would have been better off.

So now we wait and as we wait his paintings lay fallow, accumulating new value as they gather old dust. 

Could it be that the sly old hedgehog is conjuring a third act?


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SCHOFFMAN THE SHOW-OFF


My good friend David Schoffman hates to travel.

And yet, with all the professional demands that weigh upon him like bad debts he finds himself in the small soap world of hotels and airport lounges for much of his precious time. Between his lectures, exhibitions, book tours and frivolous academic research projects, David is away from his studio so much that he has delegated the production of his entire oeuvre to a 24 year-old assistant named Cindy.

In order not to completely consign his diverted attention to the slag of wasted time, when he's in a city or a town with even a modicum of cultural sophistication he finds whatever rewards are on offer and gratefully seeks them out.


For example, though he found the Ninja House in Iga Ueno terribly disappointing Imabari's famous 17th century castle with its picture postcard view of the Seto Inland Sea was well worth the indignity of signing books and posters in a strip mall bookshop in downtown Osaka.

Likewise, as on a recent trip to Urumqi to oversee the installation of his first public sculpture, the now infamous Hanny I'm Home, David found Zunghar's, the must-see avant-garde musical theater club owned by the Italian expatriate Nino Questo. It was there where he heard for the very first time that crazy and now viral take of the traditional Mandarin folk songs of Chu Chi.


video

Whenever he's away I can always count on receiving a postcard (David does not believe in email) where he will gently rub my sedentary face with his veiled boasts and muted embellishments.

"Dear Currado," a recent short missive began, "Monte Carlo never fails in depleting my will and sapping my soul. Just had dinner with Charles Patti and his wife (you know, the guy with the pink walls and the wierd art collection). Lovely couple but as boring as powdered milk. Wish you here though you're lucky you're not. Gros bisous, D."


Quel frimeur!!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

POTHOLES OF CASH


In a spittle of sacrilegious rage  my mercurial American friend David Schoffman destroyed his beautifully appointed southern California studio.
Its rich northern light and 14 ft. ceilings provided the perfect theater for David's diabolical imagination. 

It was there, just a spliff's toss from the madcap carny riot of Venice Beach where Schoffman produced some of his most seminal works. Many of his notorious short films were made there. Three of his five weddings took place in his large printmaking space where on each occasion his four dazzling skylights glazed the ill-fated couple with cruel radiant and prescient indifference.

The place was a shrine to folly, a tabernacle of foolishness and a toxic repository of stoic miscalculation. The grandeur of the place mocked David's futile diurnal dalliances with greatness.

He's now reduced to a vanquished carapace of his former self. He's taken to sleeping all day and driving his 1969 Chevrolet Impala all night long down the gaudy, desolate boulevards of Los Angeles. To David these not-so-mean streets are a perfect metaphor echoing a once formidable ego now vacated and lampooned. 

He drives well below the speed limit listening to spy novel audiobooks on his tinny cassette player and whenever an interesting image cuts across his windshield he snaps a quick picture on his cell-phone. 



These morose confections are now the subject of an unlikely exhibition at Gallerie Nuitcroisière on rue Piat in Bellville. To us Parisians these scenes of wide dim streets wedged between cordons of filifera palms are as foreign as space travel. There is nothing even remotely like it in all of Europe and the fact that the show is taking place on the eve of what is shaping up to be one of our severest winters adds an extra element of aloof exoticism to the work.

Schoffman's studio has since been reduced to rubble.

The rumor is that this former shrine to Bohemia is slated to become a medical marijuana emporium complete with a hemp spa and a cannabis bakery.


David lives in a cozy one-bedroom apartment in Encino and has no plans to resume his painting any time soon.



He just put a new engine in the Impala and bought a brand new Canon D810 SLR and a DJI Phantom 2 Vision drone with a custom tripod for his camera.


Why not? His new works are insanely popular with collectors and he needs to crank out inventory.

He calls it "monetizing his melancholy."



Monday, November 24, 2014

ENCORE DU OPIUM


Cults of personality can be wonderful things when the object of adulation is oneself. The perversions that accrue are minor taxes considering the unexpected benefits. Upgrades on airlines, choice tables at fancy bistros, access to powerful politicians and of course the unaccountable magnetism one suddenly acquires with the fairer sex and the inevitable dancers around the lodestone.

I witnessed this ugly phenomenon first hand when I ill-advisedly accompanied my good friend David Schoffman on a recent trip to Macau.



Everywhere we went we were trailed by infatuated fans, starstruck by this middle aged bald guy with a bad teeth.

video



We were constantly surrounded by exhilarated schoolgirls, thick-necked paparazzi, badgering journalists, lickspittling critics, tedious curators and of course, bootlicking collectors cozying way too close up the hairy anus of the revered and exalted "master."

Schoffman, of course, lapped it up like it was bread pudding.

He was there for an exhibition of his new, extremely large sinocentric paintings that were specifically designed for the recently inaugurated Macau Center for Contemporary Art (known simply as Mecca to the locals).


David's dumbed-down imagery, with its crude cartoon-like drawing of truncated torsos and wacky wicker furniture was a huge hit with the locals. To them it all seems so thoroughly American. It's almost as if a collective amnesia has deprived the Chinese of their glorious Tang past.


I guess in the end we all get what we deserve.

Macau gets some cool, contemporary caché, David gets a big fat paycheck and a bunch of free foot massages and I get to bone up on my Portuguese while doing a little bit of gambling on somebody else's dime.

But still ... what a ham!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

THE BLACKLIST


The first time my good friend David Schoffman encountered a real live elf he was three sheets to the wind, was bloated like a bullfrog and had enough methaqualone coursing through his bloodstream to tame a raging, randy mastodon.


Now he sees elves practically everywhere.


Which would be bad enough but he insists on talking about it.

And not only that.

He actively goes around looking for elves. But the thing is, what he considers an elf is anything but. To David, anything svelte and in a costume constitutes an elf when it could very well be something entirely different.

It could be a ballerina, a transvestite, an art student, a carnival performer, a panhandler, a cheerleader, a busker or a Christian missionary with a dash of panache.

video

He spends so much time looking for these putative elves that the Regent of the University of California officially declared David "unfit" to teach within the entire UC system.

This decree seems to include the California State college system as well as all the smaller community colleges that dot the coastal landscape like scurvy.

Not only can't he get a job as dog catcher, they won't even hire him as an adjunct!

I suppose the only thing left for him to do is to get back into his elfin studio and start painting again.


I wonder if he mistakes the cockroaches for elves as well?


Sunday, November 16, 2014

I SING THE BODY ECCENTRIC


video
Venice Beach, California 2014

When he's not painting, reading, writing, lecturing or lying on his back ruminating on the blessedness of his genius, my dear, solipsistic friend David Schoffman is working out at the gym.

Living as he does in Los Angeles where mailmen are typically buffer than Mark Wahlberg and primary school teachers miss on average 18 days of classroom work per year due to their intermittent commercial auditions, the pressure to be fit weighs heavily on every unfortunate fatso.

Exercise as theology, though not quite Jesuitical, comes with its own set of doctrinal moral codes. To be rotund in Redondo Beach, a coastal community south of LAX known for its derrières durs and its ubiquitous volleyball nets is about as dangerous as being a Jew in Jeddah or an anarchist in Alabama.

In places like Malibu and the Pacific Palisades, body fat index is a more vital statistic than one's credit rating. I've heard of people being denied apartments by landlords afraid of the stress excess girth might impose upon their buildings.

Even boutique épiceries like Wholesome Grits and Martin's have imposed spending limits on customers deemed too flabby to fit comfortably into their corporate brand. 



My dear friend David has adapted to this stringent cult of corpuscular curation by maintaining a strict regimen of callous calisthenics more punishing than the hazing rituals of Israeli marines and more spartan than the unspeakable pains imposed upon the Carthusian monks of Chartreuse.

The result is a body so toned and tanned yet so wrinkled with age that when shirtless David resembles something more like an old leather purse than an actual living person.

video


When questioned about his questionable parsing of time - how he devotes so many hours to his fetish of body-sculpting and self-preservation - David shrugs off any suggestion that this all comes at the expense of an active life of the mind. "I live in L.A." he says as if that's explanation enough, "where do you think those wordless Ikea instructional booklets come from?"

 

Monday, November 03, 2014

JUST AND EYE BUT WHAT A (LOUSY) EYE


In addition to being a moderately gifted draftsman, a passable polemicist and a reluctantly trenchant teacher my good friend David Schoffman is a great champion of contemporary art.

Something of a collector of eccentric and inexpensive work, David combs the far flung art fairs in search for the next big thing.

Most of the time he's dead wrong like when he "discovered" the public sculpture of the Korean provocateur Shai Kwok.


After seeking out the reclusive artist and persuading him to sell, sight unseen, the two-dimensional contents of his three oversized flat files, Kwok admitted publicly that his artistic persona had been an elaborate hoax. As a foreign student at UCLA in the early 90's Kwok bet his frat brothers that he could successfully fake an artistic career. If not for the unforeseen advocacy of my credulous friend David he would have lost his wager in a heartbeat.

Far from being disabused Schoffman continued his quixotic hunt for the hot, the hip and the decidedly cheap.

He showed a little more discretion when he came upon the paintings of Sorina Vanderbilt. Based in Chicago Vanderbilt's work has both craft and concept.

Special Pleading, oil on canvas, Sorina Vanderbilt, 2013
Vaguely reminiscent of the work of Italian neo-expressionist Arturo Shmueli, Vanderbilt offers a decorative critique of what she calls the "sexual/pharmaceutical conflation of interests." I think David was attracted to the pretty colors. After a favorable notice in The Huntington Post it looked like Vanderbilt was well positioned for success.

Unfortunately the gifted young painter decided to go to medical school and gave up making art for the foreseeable future.

David is still on the prowl for the next great wave and is now desperately trying to figure out who is the hand (or hands) behind this popular and iconic picture:
  


Friday, October 24, 2014

I COULD HAVE BEEN SOMEBODY


There's no denying the fact that my good friend David Schoffman has sorely missed his calling.


Never much of a painter, David, a gifted raconteur, well-intentioned writer and sublime tenor seemed to have picked a vocation in which he was destined to fail.

The Body is His Book #50, oil on linen, David Schoffman


He was told as a child that there was no hope in the life of an entertainer - his father's cousin, Moishe Kotutchky was a third-rate character actor in the Yiddish theater who ended up hanging himself with a tefillin strap after reading a scathing review in the Togblatt - and so his nascent ambitions were smothered in their cradle.

He has spent the better part of his adult life trying to prove to his long deceased parents that they were wrong. (Of course to his Depression era parents the antidote to the thespian's fate was not the life of a blighted visual artist).

So to this day whenever David happens upon one performance or another he is swept like a gust of bitumen and sulphur into the past and into the dregs of shame and regret.


But David, you live in Los Angeles!

It's never too late!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ORIENTALISM


There's an old French maxim that dates back to the Third Republic that says "if you're out of ideas go the the Middle East." (Si vous n'avez pas d'idées allez dans le Levant).

I was reminded of this the other day when I happened upon a reproduction of one of David Schoffman's paintings in a fashionable French magazine that focuses on what the French call "style."

Imazighen, oil on canvas,  David Schoffman2002

There's a bit of irony here in that of all my good friends who are painters, the one I associate least with the idea of style is that California klutz with the bald head and the mismatched socks.


In any event, David has spent a fair amount of time traveling and living in the Arab world. In fact, his passport is such a hodgepodge of exotic stamps and seals that whenever he tries to get on a plane he's detained for at least a half an hour by either Homeland Security or the TSA.

It's either really worth the trouble or he's suffering a very fallow middle age because he's back in the region once again, this time living in a small, family owned pensione in downtown Ouarzazate, Morocco.

He spends his days in what he describes as "creative idleness," sleeping late, enjoying long walks along the Draa Valley and making elaborate rubbings of the rich architectural details that are found on almost all the public buildings in the area.


"I envy these guys," David told me the other day on a very shaky Skype connection from the Abu-Shwarma Internet Café, "they really know how to make a day seem long."

The whole world wants to be like America and here is Schoffman in the middle of the desert struggling to go native!


And come to think of it, maybe the guy has some sort of unique and interesting style after all.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

FICKLE FRIENDS


 The restaurant trade is a violent affair full of cutthroat competitors and palate-blind critics eager to pick at what to them is merely food.  Like many artists before him, my good friend David Schoffman, fearful of the vegetative indolence most common at mid-career, has tossed his tattered apron into this tasteless ring of flames and opened up a bistro of his own.


Though he labors in earnest, Los Angeles tends to greet much of what David does with an undernourished apathy and a bitter, hostile extravagance of dismissive inattention.

This was not always the case.
There was a time when Schoffman was Southern California's darling, a spaniel among the curs, a toasted garnish on a glamorous gourd. 
Feted by the famous and fetishized by the rich he was a bohemian trophy mis en bouteille in the chateau of grand celebrity.

It would have been nothing spotting him with some starlet on Opening Nite, flashbulbs bouncing off his bald head like fireflies in summer.

The cult of the artist maudit is all fine and good so long as the artist in question remains obedient to the proscribed règle du jeu. As soon as said artist sheds his gloomy hide and joins the well-adjusted he is no longer of any use as a bangle or a beard.

Unless of course his work is durable, strong and speaks for itself.


Which, of course, has never been the case for David.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ONE MAN'S DUMB IS ANOTHER MAN'S DHARMA



To my good friend David Schoffman the blunted knife cuts both ways. 

In order to produce powerful works of art David needs to claim a cloud somewhere north of Olympus far from the human stain. However, in order to dwell in the world of men he also needs to scrape his knuckles across the trough of the mundane.



He sings with the angels in a crazy chorus of cerebral dissipation yet, in the world of men he must pluck at the gloomy finger-food of ordinary intellectual bric-a-brac.

For years friends and wives, scarred by his hallowed halo were left like road kill along his path to self-anointed virtue. Nobody, it seems, was capable of keeping up with the velocity of his metastasized ambition. Books, ideas, passions and speculations were the octane that kept him ahead of the heap but those same intolerable obsessions only served to thrust him into that lonely diaspora of one.

He has always worked by exclusion - identifying the dross and consigning it to the smelly slag pile of the superfluous. Anything that slowed the pace of his strident domestic pilgrimage got thrown to the dolphins.

But north of Olympus, though sweet with perfumed erudition remained way too remote from the hardscrapple ass-scratching that makes the world-go-'round. While exiled from the slow and the dim David lost touch with the bloody mess the rest of us call democracy

But I hear a change is afoot.

Rescued from the talons of his highfalutin tastes, David has now moved from the City of God to the interconnected City of  Men. He has traded his pager for an I-Phone, opened a Facebook account listing his preferences for women, cable and Independent Film, bought season's tickets to the Best of Broadway, bought a brand new grey car and started binge-watching Netflix.

He's now the toast of the milquetoast finding new friends both real and imagined and is as content as a quahog.

I hear he's even got a new lady-friend who works in a bank in Pasadena.  

The new normal David Schoffman with friend

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

THE NEW CAMP DAVID


As an artist and as a human being my good friend David Schoffman is a man of honor. To claim his companionship one must undergo a cold introspective trial  that will inevitably highlight a deficit of virtue. Next to the halogens of David's lofty ideals we are all dimmed in decrepitude.

His moral compass is unforgiving. His aesthetic standards insulate him from the vicissitudes of popular taste.  He is a fortress of consistency and a dull, grey edifice of rectitude and refinement.



His hobbies include parsing Latin prosody and restoring antique lamps.


He rises before dawn and works an unwavering ten-hours a day in his studio.
He does seventy-five push-ups each morning (down from 150, before he incurred an inflamed pectoralis minor) and remains glutenrein  and lactose free in an organic diet of unspeakable self-denial.

He hasn't watched TV since 9/11 (reluctantly) and still uses the word text as a noun.

In other words, he's a world-class bore.

Though life demands of its participants the capacity for negative capability, David has quieted his inner dissonances with equivocations and rationales. His cosmology resists the chaos of ambiguity and the ethical deliriums of doubt.

That is, until he found himself tempted like poor Anthony by a panoply of vices even the Saint would have found impossible to abjure. 


First came bacon whose scintillating sizzle and sweet gamey aroma demands crisp consummation by a moistening palate. His first crucible came at a faculty brunch, a meal he never fully accepted as legitimate or justified. He found watching his colleagues fully absorbed in this greasy delicacy oddly moving. Instead of consulting his watch as is typical for him during these mandatory meetings he sat bemused and a bit disoriented by the simplicity of pleasure. 

Though he didn't eat any of the bacon himself that day, it did, so to speak, give him food for thought.

He soon started toying with the idea of acquiring an extra pillow. "A good night's sleep," though something he always considered as a birthright, now appeared like an experience he could induce and improve upon. This led to reading mystery novels, first on airplanes and then on hammocks strung between indolent fruit trees. The slope soon slipped into binge watching on Netflix, full-fat yoghurt, Bruce Springsteen records and figure skating.

It was all so gradual and benign that no one took notice until he was seen on Venice beach kissing a woman who wasn't his wife.


And though it was remarked upon that his eyes remained open, the idea that David was now grazing in a neighbor's meadow was welcomed by acquaintances who always felt cheapened by his righteousness.

He tells me he is enjoying his new uncertainty. After decades of practiced orthodoxy he feels suddenly lighter, freer and capable of guilt.  

"Though I waste a lot of time these days I feel more fully human. I have finally entered the stream of the world and it ain't so bad after all."
(Note the colloquialism ain't)

I heard he's even questioning his convictions on the Middle East!


Thursday, September 04, 2014

NATURE OR NURTURE


After a few drinks my good friend David Schoffman is always good for a wild yarn or two.



Get him going about life and love and you can sit back and listen to a breathless performance of a peerless raconteur.

There is one subject however where he is sure to be as tiresome as a fundraiser. 

His childhood.

To hear him tell it you'd think he was raised by Mother Theressa and Gandhi. Every day was an unearthly feast of joy and warmth and affection. Never did his innocent ears endure the afflictions of acrimony and strife. All was a constant, blissful summer carnival of slides, Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds.

It was only as an adult did it dawn on David that virtue was a punishable offense. When he struck out on his own in his early twenties he had the street smarts of a ten-year-old. He trusted everyone and simply didn't understand the simple concept of strategic self-interest

For years while his colleagues were making major strides in the art world he recused himself preferring to devote his time to the perfection of Chinese calligraphy and brush painting.


Now, I'm relieved to report, Schoffman is in the throws of a wildly self-destructive mid-life crisis. Gone are his annoying scruples, his cloying sense of loyalty, his unflappable diligence and his conceited perceptions of morality. His long deferred rebellion against the wholesomeness of his upbringing is a welcome retreat from the stuffy self-denial that decency always brings.

The cold fact of mortality and the waning vigor that comes with age has pushed my friend past the edge of needless caution. His fading respectability is of little concern as he dissipates with the abandon of a frat boy on Jägermeister.


 And while he's dating starlets half his age and hosting wild parties for strung out venture capitalists and overweight movie producers his career has suddenly blossomed like a lotus. Despite (or because) of a spate of disorderly conduct arrests and convictions the smart-set has gravitated toward David like mice to brie. He's become an L.A. tabloid staple and as the current AARP "it" bad-boy he's getting more free publicity than ISIS. 

I suppose the lesson in all this is that while raising children take care to sign them up for tennis lessons and soccer.

Just make sure they learn to how to cheat.