Monday, January 26, 2015

PLAYING POKER WITH POLITICS


To call my dear friend David Schoffman ignominiously mercenary would be to expend way too much syllabic energy in expressing the patently obvious. With the pluck of the doomed, David's je-m'en-foutisme in the face of what others might call "ethical challenges" is rather impressive.

A recent trip to North Korea will serve as a case in point.


At the behest of the U.S. Department of Treasury, David, together with about a dozen other representatives of the arts community visited that notorious hot bed of dangerous eccentricity in an effort to establish some sort of fig leaf of cultural rapprochement. Aside from getting a blistering sunburn David learned that for some strange reason the CIA likes to recruit men with comb-overs and acne scars.

 

Anyway, while in Pyongyang David discovered that the North Korean military elite had developed a taste, not only for Soviet lapel pins, 30 year old single malt scotch and the complete film history of Julie Adams but also for 20th Century American modernist painting.


 Say the names Arthur Dove, Faun Roberts or Charles Demuth to anyone within the relative orbit of influence and you can watch a pair of cynical eyes grow moist with real emotion. David saw in this unlikely attachment a rare opportunity.


During a festive moment of inebriated intimacy he offered his hosts that if given two hours and the appropriate materials, he could reproduce an impeccable, museum quality facsimile good enough to pass for the real McCoy.

In the Soju charmed atmosphere of bilateral cooperation and unbridled greed, anything, I guess, is possible. It seems that David walked away from the trip fatter by about a million won.


Schoffman is known as a lowdown, self serving, prevaricating fabulist but if even half the story is true, (which is usually his average), it's one of his strangest adventures yet.

I wonder if his computer has been hacked.

Friday, January 16, 2015

FINDING HIS GOOD SIDE


A lapsed Buddhist, my good friend David Schoffman could never really master the reticent art of detachment.



I once rather naively proposed that together David and I could relinquish the respective authorship of our best works and cast them like foundlings upon a grateful and unsuspecting public . What, I mused, would be the consequences if we had decided to leave ambition out of the equation and allow our ideas to float autonomously without motive or yearning. 

Free from desire both of treasure and renown, could we possibly stumble upon some newer and purer form of motivation?


"I'd sooner wax a camel's balls than make my art in a vacuum of obscurity," he belched, "do I look Amish to you!?"


Lack of ego has never been one of his problems.

Begrudgingly I've come to realize that David is quite right. If one were to compare the profile of your typical artist with that of the Buddha one would find a severe and irreconcilable lack of compatibility.  

An artist must be a striver, a hip-checker, a narcissist, and an egomaniac. He must be nimble in his animus, fluid in his hatreds and fascistic in his intolerance of all opposing ideas. He should be an ideologue ready to pounce on his adversaries using eloquence and wit like mortal weapons. He should be an aesthetic sadist, a perverse mirror image of conventional civility and an intellectual bully quick to intimidate and verbally assault.
He should be talented, of course but also raw, de-skilled, primitive and rough. He needs to be uncompromising and didactic with an impatient air of inspired entitlement. He must be an asshole, a scumbag and above all, fatally insecure.

Fortunately, David Schoffman is all those things and worse.





Thursday, January 08, 2015

SLOPPY SECONDS


When my ageless friend David Schoffman turned fifty his putative American friends surprised him with a party.

Why they committed this unforgivable assault was easily enough explained.  It's what we French call pour ├ętudier un adversaire or in English, "opposition research."

It was Schoffman's first real marking of his accidental date of birth since his besotted bar-mitzvah and the trauma of that cheek-pinching, schnopps-filled day was still as raw as a tuber. 

Schoffman and Boulbec in Beirut, 2006
He was married at the time to a saucy Lebanese wench named Samira Boulbec who took it as her life's work to subvert and distort everything Schoffman valued, particularly his privacy. It was her malevolent idea to allow Schoffman's peers access to his sacred and secreted studio and garnish the joint with festive bunting and heliuminated balloons.

Predictably, my dear unsuspecting friend was furious. The sight of so many of his devoted rivals in one room - his room - was a massive, destabilizing blow the magnitude of which even David could not accurately assess.

Within weeks a riotous miscellany of Schoffman knock-offs were popping up in studios, art schools and galleries throughout southern California. From Santa Barbara to San Diego small colorful panels ornamented with Liiliputian detail were exhibited and critiqued with little or no mention of their intellectual progenitor.

Such is the nature of promiscuity. Such are the consequences of ulterior kinship. 

"At any given time our culture allows for only five original ideas," Schoffman is fond of proclaiming, "and fortunately I have one of them."

Not anymore ...

Wildflower, acrylic on wood, Dahlia Danton, 2015