Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I'm still catching up with the events of Ellie's birthday. I published her "birthday stone" the other day; you heard about her surprise party and about the dinner at Campanile. The final act of the day was a stop at the Caporale/Bleicher Gallery on La Brea to see the installation by our friend Stuart Rapeport. He calls the show Critics, Collectors, Curators and Grapefruit. We have known Stuart's work for many years--Ellie even showed him, way back when, in her Ellie Blankfort Gallery days.

In a low-key, insistently modest way, Stuart has been poking fun at art world pretensions for all these years--both the insanely trendy fads and fashions and the practitioners of same. A cartoonist, animator, painter, three-dimensional installation artist and... what shall we say? an embedded agent of cultural subterfuge all these years, he brings a wry humor and a subtle intelligence to his work, whose sometimes whimsical, sometimes faux-folk art appeal is a whole lot less naive that it might seem at first glance. Here are some images of earlier works, pirated shamelessly from his website (don't sue me, Stuart!):

And here's his portrait of our George, a generous gift:

Stuart likes dogs. What he has been up to recently, it seems, is gently skewering those of us who have been privileged to make a modest (or, some of us, a grand) name for ourselves in the art world. The modest ones include Ellie and myself, seen here in our younger days ...

His rough cut-out figures 0f, well, "critics, collectors and curators," in laminated layers of plywood and veneer are stacked with artful carelessness against the gallery walls...

... like so much cord wood, so many discards from a not-yet-quite forgotten past. We are reduced, in a casually fond gesture, to the hangers-on we actually are when stripped of our pretensions; and yet, in a strange way, honored, too, if only for being included in the support system that artists need. In a strange way, too, there's an uncanny likeness to each of the figures, the result surely of Stuart's practiced skill as a cartoonist. Here's the eminent (and, for my money, unduly influential) New York School critic Clement Greenberg...

... seated with somewhat smug assurance beneath a Jackson Pollock grapefruit tree. Oh, yes, the grapefruit, those slightly absurdist members of the citrus family. You may be wondering about them, as I did... Included in the show alongside the art crowd are those who do the real work in our culture, shown here as the peons, the fruit pickers..

... in a word, the workers upon whose labor we all depend but whose radically underpaid status we barely stop to recognize or acknowledge in our busy and important lives. Manifesting its own process, Stuart's art asks us to think about the actual, manual work required for its creation, subliminally equating the artisanal status of the artist with that of the lowly farm laborer. That, at least, is how I choose to see it! Beware: behind the gentle humor, there's a radical social(ist) agenda!

Subverting this subversion, Amy Inouye, Stuart's partner--in life and in their Highland Park gallery, Future Studio--invades his space with her own crafty intervention: an installation of plump, knitted "grapefruit" that dangles unobtrusively from the ceiling, parodying the theme of the show with good-natured mockery. (Amy calls this, delightfully, "yarn-bombing.")

(For those who might not yet have come across Caporale/Bleicher, the gallery is right next door to Jack Rutberg Fine Arts on La Brea. You can catch Stuart Rapeport's show and stop next door to see the eminent Hans Burkhardt and Claire Falkenstein at the same time.)

No comments: