Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Catena v. Catlin

Vincenzo Catena
c.1480 - 1531


George Catlin
1796 - 1872


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Month to Month Resolutions: July 2012

Categories and Goals for July 2012

Well, June was a bit of a trying month.  I started off by attending four high-school graduations in one week, an epic and time-consuming feat of polite sitting-still.  After that it was, as it has been for the last three years, the exciting peak of the work year, and was the month I finally discovered the joys of sneaking into the building on Saturdays so I could do more work without the boss, who takes her employees' work-life balance seriously, being in on the secret.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Cat5000 essentially died, or at least did everything a cat can do in that direction without actually shuffling off this mortal coil.  For a week, Mrs.5000 and I churned cat food into slurries that we would then laboriously squirt down his throat with syringes purchased for the purpose at the art supply store.  I don't think I will ever forget the look on Mrs.'s face when the syringe popped open one morning, sending a runny streak of potted meat across the front of her roughly from her left knee to her left ear.  Then, unexpectedly, the old boy started eating again.  Now, he's basically back to normal, and pretty much obligated to live a few more years to justify his veterinary bills.

All of which underscores the problem with resolutions in particular and project-based living in general: there's all this messy business of interpersonal relationships that gets in the way of a well-designed schedule.  And it's for this reason that, yet again, I am in the position of having to start my resolutions basically from scratch.

Weighing-in: Per my June goal, I finally implemented the 10 cents per tenth of a pound over 200 pounds penalty.  It actually took a while before any penalty was assessed, but as the month wore on and less and less time was spent other than behind a desk, I slid up a bit.  The total assessed damage was about ten bucks.  I still don't know what that penalty is supposed to go towards, other than a vague sense that it should somehow benefit you, the readers of this blog.
  • July Goal: The penalty threshold drops to 199.  (which means that if I don't lose a pound, I'll end up forty bucks in the red.  Hardball.)
Push-ups: I must start from scratch.
  • July Goal: I wish to perform 40 push-ups a day. 
Cola: I managed to hold out on cola until the sun was over the yardarm for a couple of weeks, and then I snapped like a twig under the schedule.
  • July Goal: After the 11th, no cola before the sun is over the yardarm.
Veggies: It is probably time to bring back the concept of veggie units.
  • July Goal: After the 11th, at least a veggie unit every other day.
Paper Mail Sent: None.

  • After the 15th, at least 4 pieces of written mail a week.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, First Elimination Round #5/128

Faceoff #1: Bellmer v. Bellotto

Hans Bellmer
1902 - 1975
Polish; worked in France

Lost to Giovanni Bellini in Round 1 by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!


Bernardo Bellotto
1721 - 1780
Venetian; worked internationally

Lost to American George Bellows by a single vote in Round 1. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!


Faceoff #2: Beuys v. Bingham

Josef Beuys
1921 - 1986

Shellacked by Gianlorenzo Bernini in Round 1.


George Caleb Bingham
1811 - 1879

Lost to German-American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt in Round 1.


Vote for the two artists of your choice! Votes generally go in the comments, but have been known to arrive by email, by postcard, or in a sealed envelope.

Please note that you may vote only once in each face-off.  Opining that both of the artists in one of the two face-offs is superior to the other is fine, but casting your votes for two artists in the same face-off is not permissible.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Wednesday Post

A Farewell Postcard from Frank Auerbach
A third artist leaves the Infinite Art Tournament.

Now, on the... your style of painting, it's been said, as drips are to Jackson Pollock and spots to Seurat, so gashes of thick paint are to Auerbach. I mean, just as a straightforward description, does that... does that mean anything to you?

I'm not so much aware of it. I don't think Seurat would have been aware of the dots - he would have been aware of what he was trying to do, the dots were an instrument. I don't think Pollock would have been aware of the drips, because sometimes there weren't drips after all - some impressive paintings were done with the brush, and Seurat's first painting of the Bathers that we've got in the National Gallery is as grand as a Massacio in its discovery of three-dimensional sculptural form. And I... I don't think I'm going to do a thick painting, on the other hand it's... it's a by-product and I can't... I don't disavow it and I'm not ashamed of it and nor am I interested in other people's thick paintings - it's not the essence of the matter.

Yes, it's a technique to achieve the essence of what you're doing. The technique, the expression of gashes, vectors and so on is incidental to the search for meaning.

Absolutely, and in some sense I'm hardly aware of it until it's pointed out... and so for many years now, 25 or 30 years, because my paintings are so much thinner than they were, I think of them as being thin rather than thick paintings.  [laughs]

They're... they're three-dimensional, they're almost sculptural...

Well, the early ones...

They're like Giacometti, particularly the earlier ones, aren't they?

The early ones are, yes. I mean, it wasn't that when I saw this happening I stopped it. I was... I was delighted... well I wasn't delighted, but I was quite prepared to accept something that looked outré and strange but that wasn't the first thing I wanted to do. The first thing I wanted to do was to state the truth, and the point about the truth is, the truth is not a painting. The truth is something that hasn't been captured by painting yet. As soon as you do something that looks like a painting there are all sorts of ways of making it work that precisely because it's already been done, are presented to you. But you've got to venture into unknown territory where you're trying to state the thing, without having these hand-holds and grips and assistance of previous practise and so when the paintings became these strange lumps of thick paint, I was very interested and I pursued that line.

That implies that there was an important quality of discovery between yourself and the painting, you didn't set out to say, I'm now going to paint something a few inches thick. It happened that way.

Absolutely, absolutely - that's precisely what happened.
-- Frank Auerbach interviewed by John Tusa on BBC Radio 3. Full Transcript and recording at

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Round 2: Avercamp v. Balthus!

Hendrick Avercamp
1585 - 1634

Lost to Francis Bacon in Round 1.
Clobbered Frank Auerbach in Left Bracket First-Round Elimination.



Defeated Michelangelo's buddy Fra Bartolommeo in Round 1.
Lost to Giacomo Balla in Round 2 by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!


Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Michael5000 discovers that membership really does have its privileges

Last month, I mentioned that Mrs.5000 and I had become members of the Portland Art Museum. I confess that I didn't really realize how cool that would turn out to be until this weekend. Struggling to fill the lonely hours with Mrs.5000 out of town, and happening to be in downtown, I just marched right into the museum as easy as kiss-my-hand, like I owned the place.

It was awesome. Since I didn't have to pay a cover, there was none of the pressure to admire art to the point of exhaustion that I've always felt, to a greater or lesser extent, at museums. I just browsed for a while, then skedaddled. Because, I can come back any time I want. And when I bought some postcards? Discount. BECAUSE I'M A FREAKIN' MEMBER, BABY!!!

Based on this experience, I'd have to recommend that you become a member too, if financial considerations allow. Or, I suppose you could set something up with the museum in the city where you actually live. It doesn't have to be the Portland Museum.


Naturally, one begins with Lord Ganesh.

As I browsed the halls, I was again amused to notice how much my attention was drawn to artists whose last names begin with "A" or "B" or "C."  I know so much more about them!  And while this certainly has a goofy aspect to it, which I will begin indulging in shortly, it also seems to me to be proof positive that the Infinite Art Tournament is working.  In addition to being a giddy good time (for me), it's also a helluva arts education.

My opinion of the Beaver State's leading art trove continues to grow.  Obviously it's not exactly the Louvre, but it seems to have representative work from a surprising number of the Heavy Hitters.  For example, I looked up at one point, and noticed that I was standing underneath a mobile by Alexander Calder!

Turns out that mobiles are really hard to photograph, so I don't know if my effort here will help Calder out any in his current first-round bout against Gustave Caillebotte.

I learned that Sir Anthony Caro, who is currently in first-round action against Vittore Carpaccio, does not work exclusively in big rusty found objects.  It seems he also does small, graceful, smooth, designed objects.

I bumped into representatives of both sides of the Boucher/Boudin smackdown.  They are hung in different areas, probably to let things cool off after Boucher's narrow first-round victory.

Does this frame make our Boudin look small?

I have to say that Karel Appel, currently held up in a highly suspenseful left-bracket limbo by a tie elsewhere in the tournament, looks pretty compelling in life.  (Boucher was unexpectedly impressive, too.)

I even got a chance to grapple with some Basquiat, who has of course already made it to the third round, where he's duking it out with Max Beckmann.


Having been exposed to all this fine artwork, I found myself moved to recover the long-neglected painting that was included in the sale of our home.  This meant digging it out from where Mrs.5000 has banished it for the last nine years, hung actually behind the basement shelving.  I guess she just doesn't respect original artwork.  Anyway, I put it up in my personal growlery, to maximize its chances of survival.  By the time you are reading this, the resulting marital power struggle may well have already run its course.  Wish me luck.



Awesome, am I right?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Infinite Art Tournament: Cassatt v. Castagno

Mary Cassatt
1844 - 1926
American; worked in France


Andrea del Castagno
c.1421 - 1457


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Friday, June 22, 2012

At the Movies: "Beginners"

Mike Mills, 2011.

Ebert: Three and a half Stars
Rotten Tomatoes: 84% Fresh

Beginners is a quiet, quirky movie about a man trying to come to terms with the last years of his father’s life. After the protagonist’s mother dies, and after almost 50 years of marriage, his father takes a much younger boyfriend and becomes a very active member of the local gay community. This understandably leads the son to question much of what has come before, even as he draws closer to his suddenly more approachable father. Meanwhile, he (the son) has met a highly attractive young woman who shares his ineptness at romantic relationships, and they struggle to find some kind of vocabulary with which they can find out if they are even suitable for each other.

Beginners is set, oddly, seven years back in time, which gives it a contemporary feel but underscores its lack of resolution or finality; the characters have issues, as we say, and will have to continue working on them. There is one roughly linear story arc, but much of the screen time is spent in non-linear flashback, sometimes with events colored or distorted by memory. Occasionally the movie breaks for more direct collage, with a voiceover over vintage images chosen to represent the feel, the look, or the perils of an era, or a period in the characters’ lives. Intensely experiential and infused with a documentarian sensibility, it feels (as I remarked to Mrs.5000) like “This American Life: The Movie.” Oh, and there’s a talking dog.

Highly recommended for grownup types who don’t mind feeling wistful and who are interested in the nature of human emotional life and the always-problematic realm of family dynamics.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Saint of the Month: Saint John Rigby!

Saint John Rigby

AKA: n/a.
Feast Day: June 21st.

Really Existed? Definitely.
Timeframe: Born c. 1570; Died June 21, 1600
Place: England.

Credentials: Canonized in 1970 as one of the representative group of “Forty Martyrs of England and Wales” by Pope Paul VI.
Martyrdom: Hung, drawn, and quartered.

Patron Saint of: Bachelors -- but one of at least 16 saints so credited.
Symbolism: n/a

There aren’t too many people around these days, at least in my sheltered experience, who get particularly worked up by the Catholic/Protestant schism, and this makes the political history of England after Henry VIII’s big divorce scheme seem more than a little overblown. Queen “Bloody” Mary I, Henry’s daughter, tried to reimpose Catholicism and is famous for creating the political environment in which some 280 Protestants were burned alive. Elizabeth I, who flipped England back to Protestantism, has a reputation as a don’t-ask-don’t-tell religious moderate, but in her later years, as she began to lose some of her authority, quite a few Catholics started being punished under long-dormant “recusancy laws.” John Rigby was one of them.

No one pretends that Mr. Rigby was an important or influential man. Born one of too many children in a strapped aristocratic family, he was forced into the undignified position of working for a living. The general line among the internet sources is that his employer was “the avid Protestant, Sir Edmund Heddleston.” Sir Heddleston’s daughter, the story goes, had been ill and therefore unable to attend church, and this unlawful truancy got her picked up on recusancy charges. Rigby, brought in to testify at her hearing, was put in a position of having to admit his own Catholicism, and his refusal to “conform” led to his doom.

Well, maybe.  But parts of this background story seem unlikely to me. I haven’t found out much about Heddleston except that his father was a major supporter of Queen Mary. Between that fact, his longtime employment of an openly Catholic gentleman, and his daughter's “I-couldn’t-attend-Church-of-English-services-because-I-had-the-sniffles” story, it would seem a good bet that, in the absence of other evidence, we are probably looking at a discretely Catholic household here, not an avid Protestant one.

Well. Although John Rigby is not associated with any supernatural events, acts of evangelism, great deeds, or other qualities you might think of in relation to the concept of sainthood, he definitely embodies the courage of conviction. He had any number of opportunities over a period of five months to get himself off the hook by simply affirming his willingness to be a C of E man like everybody else. No one would have cared if he still held Catholic beliefs; all he would have to do is keep is mouth shut about them. Yet, despite knowing that he was at risk of drawing and quartering – which consists of…

…well, it’s pretty awful. I’ve written it in white letters so that the historically curious can select the text and see exactly how awful. Or you can take my word for it: it was slow, humiliating, and extremely painful.

Drawing and quartering meant, first, being dragged through town by a horse on a kind of sled, while folks in the street jeered or lamented or looked away in horror.  Once at the gallows, and in front of whatever crowd was brought out that day by rough entertainment, you were hung by the neck for a while, twitching and thrashing.  After a few minutes of this, you were cut down and, if necessary, restored to consciousness. Then, you were held down and castrated, and then disemboweled, quickly or slowly depending in large part on the mood of the crowd. You were encouraged to watch while your guts and genitals were thrown onto a fire.  At this point, finally, you were dispatched by beheading, and if you were lucky and had a good headsman this would only take a couple of chops. The quartering came afterwards, with your body being carved up and the pieces sent out to be displayed in various public settings; apparently knowing that your corpse would be desecrated was apparently a very significant source of additional horror to people of the time.

Despite knowing what he was in for, and having multiple easy ways out, Mr. Rigby stayed true to his Catholicism. I mean, a public official with the power to get him off the hook stopped his "drawing" -- which is to say, stopped the horse on the way to the gallows -- to encourage him to beg off, but he wouldn’t do it. It’s easy for those of us of an ecumenical turn, who tend to emphasize the similarities instead of the differences among the various faiths of the God of Abraham, to question his common sense, but you simply can not fault the man’s courage and devotion to his sense of what was right.

John Rigby’s mix of rotten luck and superhuman bravery was relatively rare; the Vatican estimates that around 300 people were judicially murdered for practicing Catholicism in the century and a half following 1535. In 1970, a well-documented “Forty Martyrs of England and Wales” were picked out for sainthood, a symbolic act more or less sanctifying the Catholic resistance to militant Protestantism during England’s religious dark years.

What do we know about the man John Rigby outside of his awful end? Nothing much, really. But all accounts, although with widely contradictory details, mention his answer to a question about his marital status. He was, he said, "both a bachelor and a maid." That's an odd line. The “maid” part, says more than one source, must refer “to his job as a servant in the household of the avid Protestant Sir Edmund Heddleston.” I'm not buying it. The English language has an lush effulgence of words that describe specific positions in household service, and Rigby would have known them all. My guess is that Rigby, with his minutes numbered, was either bragging of or complaining of a lifetime of chastity.

May you be have the courage of your beliefs this St. John Rigby’s Day – yet may you also be spared the necessity of making extreme choices in their defense.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Wednesday Post

Recent Acquisitions to the Michael and Mrs.5000 Boring Postcard Collection
Ten Cents apiece, garage sale, June 2012.

The Oceanarium

This beautifully landscaped Oceanarium -- largest in the world -- stands high on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean between Redondo Beach and San Pedro in Southern California.


ROANOKE, VA., Star City of the South
Constructed on top of Mill Mountain, 1,800 feet above sea level and 975 feet above the City.  The largest man-made illuminated star in the world -- 88 1/2 feet in diameter, on a 100-foot structure -- as tall as an eight-story office building.  Nine rows (2,000 feet) of neon tubing.


Nephi, Utah
Phone 623-0152
On U.S. 91
North end of town

Specializing in steaks, chicken and fish.  Home made pastries.  Dinging room.  We cater to private parties and banquets.  Take-home service.  Ample off-street parking.  Air conditioned.  Pure mountain spring water.    Jay and Thalia Mickelson, owners and operators.


If you were a little puzzled by that last one, that makes three of us.  It is worth noting that Nephi, Utah, is not particularly near any major dams.  I also encourage you to check out this post on the lamentably defunct Vintage Chrome Postcards blog.  We will grant a boon to the first to confirm a positive ID for the structure actually shown in the card.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Infinite Art Tournament, Round 2: Bourgeois v. Boyd

Louise Bourgeois
1911 - 2010
French; worked in the United States

Trounced sculptor Antoine Bourdelle in Round 1


Arthur Boyd
1920 - 1999

Defeated 15th Century Netherlandish master Dieric Bouts in Round 1.


Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Developments in the Infinite Art Tournament

I) The Play-In Artists!

Sometime this summer, possibly as early as July 15, I will close nominations on play-in artists for the Infinite Art Tournament. Remember, this is your chance to nominate artists that you worry may not be represented in the base list of 1000, perhaps because they:
  • have become active only in the past few decades
  • have gained, or regained, artistic cred only in the past few decades
  • work or worked out of the mainstream of the Western tradition
  • are considered, fairly or unfairly, to be genre artists or, shall we say, "mere illustrators"
  • are incredibly awesome, but just not very well known
We needed at least 25 nominees to proceed in an orderly fashion; as of this writing, there are 80 (of whom, admittedly, a good quarter were nominated by me.  But still.).  Those eighty are listed under the brackets right under the brackets (see below) near the top of your sidebar.

When I introduced the play-in concept a few months back, I listed a bunch of rules for entries.  This may have had a chilling effect, so I will only repeat the two most important ones here:
  • Nominations can be left in the comments or, if you’re bashful, can be emailed to the blog at InfiniteArtTournament-at-gmail. Or sent to me on an appropriately arty postcard if you know the address.
  • Some degree of “fame” is a prerequisite; a significant community needs to take the artist seriously.
Not sure that your favorite famous artist will make the list?  When in doubt, nominate!

II) Art Creep

If we are committed to introducing a new first-round contest every weekend -- and by gum, we are -- then simple math shows us that the Tuesday contests will no longer be enough to accommodate the subsequent second-round, third-round, and left-bracket action.  For now, the Tournament will start colonizing every other Thursday.  Where will the various Thursday features go to live?  Fans of the Wednesday Post, if there are any, might want to think about organizing some sort of action committee.

III) Visible Brackets!

In the interest of greater transparency -- and because Chuckdaddy, who is an excellent commentor, asked nicely -- the actual IAT brackets are now available for your perusal in the upper regions of the sidebar!  I pledge to keep them, if not exactly up-to-the-minute, at least up-to-the-season.  If they're getting too dusty, feel free to rattle my cage.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Jazz Thing Round 1: Davis v. Marsalis

The Jazz Thing, Round 1 (40 Word/Album Limit)

#50 Wynton Marsalis, "Black Codes (from the Underground)" (1985) v. #65 Miles Davis, "In a Silent Way" (1969).

One of the most “recent” major jazz records.  I tried to like it in high school, but was put off it (and jazz) by what seemed like indulgent virtuosity and denial of melody or hooks.  I like it more now.


I have really been loving Miles Davis’ trippy grooves.  It may seem like faint praise, but he has everything good about (I’ll say it) the Grateful Dead, magnified, and none of the weaknesses.  Lush, compelling, soundscapes: cool.

In a Silent Way defeats Black Codes (from the Underground)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Infinite Art Tournament, Round 1: Carrà v. Carracci

Carlo Carrà
1881 - 1966


Annibale Carracci
1560 - 1609


Vote for the artist of your choice!  Votes go in the comments.  Commentary and links to additional work are welcome.  Polls open for at least one month past posting.