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January 27, 1980 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-01-27
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_. _ ,.. __ _

r A lw

Page 6-Sunday, January 23, 1980-The Michigan Daily .



The Michigan Daily,-Sunday, Jan

Essay by Robert Rosenb
edited by David Whitn
Random House
$8.95, 141 pp.
By RJ Smith
UST WHAT is it that
Warhol's portraits s
appealing? Is it that si
delight in getting even w
have it better than us, as'
a mess of the faces of var
tatives of the
art/business/fashion upp
something aesthetic;
pleasure in the shade
strokes (mostly bored
pressionist dabbles in Pi
hues) Warhol chooses? Ar


RAITS the kind of winged quick-crit that
'%s someone like Gregory Battcock, or
lum, Warhold himself, can give. Neither is
ney offered by the brief essay by Robert
Rosenblum, written for the can't-miss,
available-everywhere catalog. Wgat we
get from Rosenblum instead is a wide-
ranging, short essay that never offends
but never challenges either. It seeks to
cover Warhol's involvement with
t makes Andy photography, American pop culture
o different, so images, and the art of portraiture, but,
mple childish never says much that most would not
vith those who notice from observing the works. The
Warhol makes essay works as a metaphor for
ious represen- Warhol's art, for it too comes off chilled
New York and gimmicky.
ercrust? Is it But Rosenblum seems dead serious
do we take about it all. He looks at Warhol's sub-
s and brush jects lovingly, one might say longingly-
abstract ex- (Caroline Herrera: "'a, queen tigress
ittsburg Paint among tiger-women"; Marcella Angelli:
re we gleaning "a living embodiment of patrician

Carla Bley's
(and jazz's)

Victor Hugo, 1978

mind set of what is art (read, what we
notice so as to understand and enjoy)
and what is just mass produced (read,
what we ignore and tread over). These
are the tackiest of prints hanging on
museum walls, hacked out in mock
disinterest and as much - machine-
created in the process as they are
shaped by human hand.
They also can be seen as a par-
ticularly diabolical expression of
Warhol's aesthetic of irony. For here we
have the sham artist uplifted to
Valhallan proportions, lurking about in
a world that clinks hollowly with only
deception providing substance.'The
delicious paradox is cracked open when
we realize that Warhol has never ad-
mitted that he belongs where he is-he
never claims there is value or justice in
what he does. Yet such honesty never
comes out of the mouths of these por-
trait subjects, and certainly is never
apparent from their lifestyles. Warhol
is a huckster in a world of huckstering,
but he is much more besides because he
realizes the dead space at the center of
himself and his art. He has never said it
any differently, and probably has
always gotten inner satisfaction from
the idioticthings the art world and high
society have done for his art and his
Just where the new stuff fits into the
timeline along with brillo boxes and
movies and silk screens of electric
chairs and everything else is unclear. I
suspect, however, that Warhol is.
stumped at least for the moment. In
recent years he has more and more
been moving toward creating an art
aimed at a pretty specific audien-
ce-the audience found in the pages of
"Andy Warhol's Interview," the
audience depicted in these portraits.
(And don't tell me that Warhol is par-,
ticularly interested in breathing new
life into the dying convention of por-
traiture, as Rosenblum does. When has
Warhol ever been interested in unear-
thing any specific artistic approach?)
If Warhol truly believes in some idea of
art, as I think he does, then it is only one
that reaches-or tries to reach, or

pretends to reach-everyone (forget-
ting, for convenience's sake, one of Bat-
tcock's dicta on Warhol: "Blacks and
the poor do not like Warhol's art or
movies. Documents that are mainly in-
tended as deliberate references to a
predominant white culture cannot -in
cite theimaginations of those who don't
give a fuck for that culture in the first
place.. ."). Thus, the move out of the
realm of commercial packagings, pop
stars, et al. is striking and puzzling.
Our most public of artists has turned
away from the public. One can justify it
to a degree by pointing out how he's
having a few yuks at the expense of his
audience, something he's always done:
here he's a phony-artist making phony
works of art depicting phony people,
and selling them to the very fakes he's
picturing. Furthermore, since he's
using photography, he's using a fictive
perception of reality and elevating it to
the fictive (certainly to Warhol) status
of art. ,
But this is not enough to explain the
purpose of Warhol's turn to portraiture.
It seems at least that Warhol has stop-
ped back for the moment from his
audience and decided to live fulltime in
the universe of Halston and Henry
Geldzahler. It may be a momentary
martialing of forces, or it may be
something longer lasting. r-
By copping from our lives the most
banal and shallow of images and of-
fering them up to the sorts of people in
this book as stuff to put in museums,
Warhol once upon a time made our
ideas of art, and perhaps our ideas
about our lives, seem on one level silly,
and on another, horrible. The next step
was to do something about it, to print
the wrongs in a place that just plain
absorbs whatever an artist
creates, and levels it all off to the same
degree as it validates it-the apocalyp-
tic Jackson Pollocks, the Pietas, spin-
art, anything. After those folks get
through with it, "art" is fit for consum-
ptive entertainment and that's it.
Andy Warhol: Portraits of the 70s
See WARHOL, Page 8

By Mark Coleman
pUNK JAZZ? It's an incredible
contradiction in terms. What
could the joyous release of
banging one's head against the wall
have in common with that vision of nir-
vana where the angels wail on tenor
saxes? Obviously both musical forms
are legitimate, yet somehow most at-
tempts at a jazz-rock communion
manage only to combine the worst
melodramatic "progressive rock" with
pre-programmed funk rhythm sections.
The result is a safe, boring sound that
sells records. Leave it to the innovative
fringe, the so-called "jazz avant-
garde" to discover the true roots of pop
music: funk and punk.
Somewhere along the popular music
way, the funk was waylaid. Sure, there
is a funky thread following the
progression from James Brown to Sly
to George Clinton. But mostly, after the
time of Miles Davis' various electric
excursions, the soul of popular music
straggled down a silent way. Rhythm
and blues music had either been co-
opted or discarded as black music un-
derwent a shattering metamorphosis.
Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix died, as
did Howlin' Wolf and King Curtis. The
Motown sound disappeared, and
numerous small. recording labels all
over the country became extinct in the
economic crunch of the 70s.
It re-emerged in a startlingly fresh
Daily Arts Page co-editor Mark
Coleman may soon be performing
at the Star Bar (check your calen-

context on Ornette Coleman's lan-
dmark album Dancing in Your Head, a
belligerent synthesissofafree jazzband
dance music. "Who says a jazz band
can't play dance music?" asked George
Clinton on his neo-funk classic "Who
Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?"
On Dancing in Your Head, Ornette
Coleman provided the perfect answer
- nobody in their right mind.
And today there is much more that
has combined those two divorced
strains. Young guitarist James "blood"
Ulmer, a former student of Coleman's,
has recently drawn a lot of attention for
his similar; though simpler, im-
provisatory brand of funk. From the
new wave scene has come the bizarre
James White/Black/Chance (take your
pick), whose aggressive onstage
behavior (scenario: launching into one
of his already near-classics like "Con-
tort Yourself" or "I Don't Want to be
Happy," the frazzled James Whatever
throws himself off the stage and begins
flailing on a member of the audience) is
earning less attention now than his
Albert Ayler-inspired sax work and the
punk-funk-discoid nature of his various
Black jazz musicians have never paid
much attention to rock: to them it is
essentially a ripoff of a form they've
long outgrown. So maybe it's no sur-
prise that the jazz musician who best
understands, and utilizes, the punk
emotionality of rock and roll is white.
For twenty-odd years, Carla Bley has
pursued a naively ambitious career of
fusing seemingly every available in-
fluence into jazz, and it usually works in
a beautifully simple way.
"If there are three kinds of music -

Daily Phot
It 's (a) headstrong attitude that un
with the divergent legions of musicia
the 'punk rock' rubric. The current (
plays its fusion of American music wi
spontaneity and unselfconscious hum
ciated with a band like the Ramones.'

Carol Coleman, 1976

some indestructibly inert, maybe
pathetic, humanity beneath the
machined coldness and flatness on the
faces of Warhol's subjects?
Well of course Andy isn't telling. Nor
will a trip to the Whitney Museum of
American Art in Manhattan to see the
current "Andy Warhol: Portraits of the
Seventies" show or the catalog accom-
panying the exhibit provide any easy
answers. Like everything Warhol does
these portraits are painfully mute.
Warhol takes photographs of various
trendsetters, treated haphazardly by
sloppy lighting and off-the-cuff shut-
terwork. He crudely silkscreens blow-
ups of these photos onto canvas,
creating images that take tawdry stabs
at high fashion photography.. The
enlargements are then painted over.
Eyes and lips are distorted by brush-
work, large areas of flat color cover up
expressions, greasy rainbows of color
are smeared all overthe canvas.
This is the kind of work that demands
either a patient, long (maybe
McLuhanesque) examination, or else
RJ Smith is co-editor of the Sun-
day Magazine.

elegance and hauteur"; Brooke
Hayward: "at once ravishingly worldly
and devastatingly innocent"), coming
off as entranced by a world which
Warhol is seeking to cheapen.
Really though this is quibbling, for
the essay is hardly the focus of the
book. It's the reproductions of Warhol's
portraits for which one buys the
book-56 Cover the Earth-hued works.
There is Paul Jenkins doused in ver-
tical swathes of blues, pinks, and tans;
Yves St. Laurent in polka dots and car-
nival stripes looking like a doleful
Richie Rich. Carried over from his
reproducitons of pin-up girls, Warhol's
portraits of women often reflect a day-
glo carnality and teasing. vapidity. Un-
fortunately, one of the best portraits of
the exhibit is not included in. the book:
the wonderful, scary work com-
missioned by Jimmy Carter. Situated
near a supremely omniscient portrait
of Mao, Carter seems a miserable cross
between a Kirchner human grotesque
and some Hanna-Barbara concoction
that exemplifies the phrase "shit-
eating grin."
These are works which play, as has
always been Warhol's wont,,xitli ppr ,

pop, jazz, and classical - I guess we're
jazz," is Bley's way of shrugging off the
tyranny of categorizations. As a per-
former, composer, arranger, and ban-
dleader, Bley has encountered a range
of musicians stretching from the avant-
- garde jazz keyboard acrobat Cecil
Taylor to ex-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor.
The only constant in any of it is Bley's
attitude, a wide-eyed fondness for ex-
perimentalism tempered only,
perhaps, by Bley's intuition. Carla Bley
will try anything in her music: the
amazing thing is how often it works.
T'S THIS headstrong attitude that
unites Carla Bley with the diver-
gent legions of musicians lumped
under the "punk rock" rubric. The
current Carla Bley Band plays its
fusion of American music with all the
sloppyhspontaneity and unselfcon-
scious humor usually associated with a
band like the Ramones. What other
bandleader can tell jokes, exchange
gibes with the audience, sing blatantly
off-key and have at least one entire
piece collapse in unrehearsed
disorganization without losing any
credibility with the audience? The
reason that the Carla Bley Band didn't
get booed of the Power Center stage two
weeks ago is because these "un-
professional" distractions are the price
one pays for musical freedom of ex-
When it hits its stride, the Carla Bley
Band matches first-rate soloing with
ultra-coherent collaboration. Besides
being brilliantly arranged and struc-
'turally awesome, Carla Bley's songs

are, well,
Bley keeps
vision of "ser
to hear it inev
and roll.
Like many
Bley entered
tly, as ar
uneducated b
to pianist Pau
initiative to
ideas into song
efforts by her
attracted atte
mid-sixties, er
her waitress
living as a mus
From the st
a penchant fo
the helm of a
possible. The
that can mate
Russell (who
early works) a
in the notoriou
the members
Taylor and tru
Tragically, the
a few short m
break-up ha
disclosed, alt]
"Sun Ra hated
From the as
Mantler firme
Orchestra As
bitious orches
profit foundal

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