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the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  

Roy in Ben Day
Original photo Suzanne DeChillo in
the New York Times

Roy Lichtenstein
Tex, 1962
sold for $3.6 million
at Christie's New York,
Nov. 20, 1996

Matthew Barney
Cremaster 5


L'eveil du coeur

Richard Serra
Torqued Ellipses
at Dia.

Charlie Rose

Diana by
James Ferguson
in the New Yorker
Sept. 29, 1997.
   [Originally published on 9-30-97]

"I'm staying young, I'm staying young, but everyone around me is growing old."
   -- Walter Pidgeon, singing in the Broadway Musical, Take Me Along.

The death of Roy Lichtenstein at age 73 of pneumonia shocks particularly because of the artist's preternatural youthfulness.

In the recent PBS documentary, Il Signore Castelli, Leo Castelli visits the lithesome Lichtenstein in his studio. As Roy sprightly alights his ladder, Leo jokes about mortality and whether "we'll be around 20 years from now," when Leo would be 108.

Lichtenstein looks at Leo with dread, as if the thought of death had just occurred to him for the first time.

In the spring of 1996 at Damien Hirst's opening, Lichtenstein danced with glee, dressed in a black windbreaker with a matching jaunty beret, like a teen out on his first date. It was hard to imagine at the time that this man would ever die.

After years of painting flat, dull interiors for the Meyerhoffs, Roy rediscovered the nude, doing masterful Ben Day strokes of winsome damsels buffing on the beach, a kind of Hamptons arcadia. The final work evoked the Japanese wave-master Hokusai, who famously remarked that he "finally learned to draw at 70, learned to deal with colors at 80, and at 90 become the thing itself."

Lichtenstein was a master of increments, placing one foot in front of the other and rarely making a mistake. Consequently he died at the top of his market with nowhere to go but up.

"Despite their cruel abuse of poor Robert Rosenblum, I like these guys."
   -- David Greene, praising Dinos and Jake Chapman in the Village Voice.

"That wacky Matthew Barney. Writers aren't meant to admit such things, but I often feel, looking at his work, that I have no idea what he's doing."
   -- David Frankel, in Artforum, Oct. '97

We'd be happy to help you, devos. Sources close to Matthew Barney tell the Royal Flush that Barney's inclusion of aging Bond girl Ursula Andress in Cremaster 5, his new geekfest, is a direct result of Yale Envy.

It seems that mad Mat was jealous of Harry Hamlin, Yale `74 (a classmate of the Royal Flush!!) and star of the cult Perseus flick, Clash of the Titans, as well as L.A. Law. Handsome Harry was married to the frequent Playboy poser for a decade and they have a son. Of course, being an artist and not a movie star, Yalie Barney gets Andress, at least on film, when she's on Social Security!

But there's a larger issue here: the continued attack by artists on critics. Nothing pleases Barney more than having someone like Jerry Saltz watching his video crap 75 times trying to figure it out.

And nothing tickles the Chapmans like giving the gullible Rosenblum a fake interview in which they rave about Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre as "the content of their work."

But Robby Rose gets the last laugh: fatuousness has always been a big arrow in his quiver -- this is a guy who praised Warhol's society portraits in the early `80s, for god's sake, a guy who resurrected the paintings of fin-de-sec dog Bouguereau, a guy whose classic, syntax-retarded Cubism and the 20th Century tells more about Juan Gris' technique than you would ever wanna know!!

Who's zoomin' whom?

Like a shit-colored magnet, Richard Serra's overwhelming, exhilarating, suffocating succubus of a sculpture drew all classes of art-worlders to the Dia Center's new 22nd Street space.

Only the brown beams of the much-reviled Arnulf Rainer Museum survive, an impossible escape hatch from the tons of rust that engulf the puny viewer.

Dia buildings chief Jim Schaefele, who riskily told the New York Observer that one tip of the heavy but skinny sculpture could crush all in its path, joined Gagosian dogsbody Ealan Wingate to shake hands with all those who enter here.

I wrote this blip on a Joseph Beuys rock stump in a whistling wind, separated from Serra's leviathan by a thin stuccoed wall.

Go ahead, take your chances.

Genial Texas farmboy Bob Rauschenberg sat down to tape the Charlie Rose Show in front of a bunch of swells at the Guggenheim Museum's Peter Lewis Theater. Rose compensated for his total ignorance of visual art (he couldn't cite even one Rauschenberg piece in almost two hours of taping) by being extra friendly to the audience.

The combination of Rose's vacuous questions and Rauschenberg's exuberant shyness produced the following Zen koans:

Rose: Do you fear death?
Rausch: I don't cherish long stoppages. (Note the Marcel Duchamp allusion.)

Rose: Isn't your work childish?
Rausch: I've seen a bunch of miserable children, too!!

Rose: You have pet chickens?
Rausch: I don't do chickens now.

Genially fending off Champagne Charlie's super duper fatuousness, RR also drawled these gems:

"This isn't the easiest museum to do a show in!!"

"Do you think I like Diet Coke?"

"God may have to rewrite part of his book."

"How could you get used to something [the world] that changes every second?"

"Jasper and I were an audience of one for each other's work."

"I'm not sure what your question is."

And how about this historical gem:

Betty Parsons: I can't give you a show right now.

Rauschenberg: I didn't ask for a show.

During the audience question period, Rauschenberg was visibly pleased when your scribe asked about his great penis light boxes, of which only two are exhibited in the shadows of the SoHo Guggenheim, but a jittery Rose quickly whipped the cordless mike from our hands.

"It's been a sustained high to be able to play all year with Frank Gehry and Bob Rauschenberg."
   -- Chief Gogle Doogle Thomas Krens, introducing the Rose show and lifting the veil on his shrink sessions.

The Charlie Rose interview will air on PBS in late October.

Speaking to a private luncheon at the Colony Club about his new oral history of Truman Capote, livin' legend George Plimpton speculated that the mythical complete manuscript to Capote's Answered Prayers may actually exist.

According to the 73-year-old Plimpton, who has twin three-year-olds with his young wife Sarah and looks at least 30 years younger than his age, Capote left instructions to Joanne Carson (ex of Johnny) to get a safe-deposit-box key from agent Allen Schwartz.

The problem? Where is the lock that fits the key?

"Everyone on staff at the Frick is delirious that Charles Ryskamp is gone."
   -- Paul Jeromackof Art and Auction to this reporter

One week after blasting his fellow art critics, like Gary Indiana, on the Downtown Arts Festival panel at Matthew Marks, for discussing the death of Princess Diana -- "Why are we talking about Diana? It's not art!" hissed New Yorker art-listing maestro David Rimanelli -- Rimanelli himself stole this reporter's idea to do a Jeff Koons "Diana," by collaborating with illustrator James Ferguson to produce exactly just such a drawing, illustrating Adam Gopnik's "Paris Journal" in the magazine.

CHARLIE FINCH is the New York editor of Coagula Art Journal and has coauthored the forthcoming Most Art Sucks from Smart Art Press.