The first night was the viewing of the Lawrence Weiner retrospective (a sample of his work here on the left), plus the dinner party. The appetizers were ample, imaginative and varied and every one of them was delicious. The servers brought you another one before you'd finished chewing and swallowing the the tidbit currently in your mouth. The wines were excellent, and someone was offering to replenish your glass before you even thought about going to one of ghe bars to get another. The dinner was very far from what people often expect at such event -- all of it was very good, beautifully served. The entrée, as the main course is called in the U.S., was billed as "Grilled Steakhouse Tournedo of Beef, Topped with caramelized onions and Frizzled Yams, Horseradish Mustard Sauce, Sweet Roast Garlic Smashed Potatoes, Tarragon Creamed Spinach."
The show is spectacular. We've known Lawrence for many years, and Vaquero has done several projects with him. Nevertheless, to see that much Lawrence work gathered in one place left one breathless. It took quite some time for me to 'get' Lawrence's work -- he is one of the major and founding figures of the Conceptual Art movement. It is deeply intellectual in that manner you will encounter only in the art world, that brings together physics, chemistry, geometry, optics and philosophy -- very etherial and difficult things for an ignorant, mostly self-educated farm girl to grasp.
He has become one of my favorite living artists now. Perhaps that was inevitable as he's one of those artists with whose work I have lived intimately for so long. I mean 'intimately' literally. For his art is constructed of words -- "The Work Need Not Be Built" -- is a part of Lawrence's works that Vaquero built a song of, with Kim Westen, great r&b singer, from Detroit, and other great music artists, including Junior Mance, the Persuasions, and other classic performers of jazz, r&b, gospel, and other classic musics. The words, inscribed on card stock, addressed to us and sent through the mail, along with other cards of Lawrence's work, was on our refrigerator door for months and months and months, fastened there by a humble magnet, while Vaquero would play with them on his guitar, trying out "Some of this, Some of that," (part of another Lawrence work). These songs can be found on Monsters From the Deep, and on their first album, Ships at Sea, Sailors and Shoes.
Thus, since he's a deep-dyed sexist of the old school (he is my friend, but nevertheless, you have to call them as you see them), and a member of the highly intellectualized art movement, you might expect his art to be cold and abstract. But the impact of seeing his life's work in one very large, intense viewing is of heat and warmth, of joy and humor. The entire night was filled with all of these, because everyone there was personally connected to Lawrence and his work in one way or another, and many of us know each other through him, and through working with each other. The dinner was as different from the Richard Price experience at the Guggenheim in September as you can get. Lawrence kept getting up and talking to people -- the place was crowded, but he didn't miss a table. Other people got up to talk to each other. People were nicely dressed, and they were all attractive, but nobody was wearing 100,000 dollars on their backs, hands and feet, as at the Prince show. Instead of having a prolonged and dull sequence of speeches of thanks and praise, there would be short ones between courses, and most of these were devoted to thanking specific people, people everyone in the room knew, and understood why they were getting special recognition. Above all, everyone gave the deepest thanks and appreciation to Alice, Lawrence's long, long-time partner. At one point we all just stood up and applauded Alice for what seemed ten minutes, and each one of us had particular knowledge of something she'd accomplished for Lawrence, that deserved that applause. I just loved that.
Like all of Vaquero's closest friends, Lawrence is another one who keeps all the people in his life close, no matter how far back it may go. His ex-wife, whom he left in 1969, was even there ....
So, then, you may wonder, how ever in the world is the Whitney connecting this most masculine of intellectual artists -- moreover I don't think I saw a single person there Tuesday night who was a person of color -- with Kara Walker, an artist who deals unflinchingly with the most messy sins of men, women, race, history and perception. in a double-star exhibition?
I will try to answer that in my next post. But one of the ways they are connected are through those two albums mentioned above, that Vaquero and Lawrence made -- note who all the performers, excluding Vaquero, are.