Read this like you saying, “Homie is a baller.” Swaying would be good too.

Roxie Paine Installing Sculpture

So I says, “Man, look at all those chairs.  2014 was “The Year of Chairs!”  I see this exhibit, orange chairs, lime green chairs sitting in front of really boring paintings not even made with paint (can you imagine?)  What’s that?  The chairs added color, which is a good thing, but, hey, the bro wanted to show how hip he was. A nod to Europe, the cool, hip Euro-look, distracted ya’ll from those dreadful not-paintings. With designer chairs in front.  We get it, sure.

Oh it started a ways back. There was an article about this art-and-prop-thing at Art Basel-Miami, did you read it? In Vanity Fair? 1 Seems artists are making really big artwork. For the oligarchs.  Unimaginably big art works and a lot of the art was in a lot of parts.2 Some of the artists put chairs in front of their painting/sculpture/ installation/ video/ conceptual-absent work to impress the billionaires.  Especially the oligarchs. Oh those oligarchs, and what are they doing now?  Hey?

I’m not saying buying really big art made them take over Chechnya, no no no, I am merely saying “Watch that Bear.” Pay attention to how that whole money thing makes some artists do really uninteresting things. But they make things really, really big, and expensive, not bling, just big. For those oligarchs. Oh this is not a good thing. OK, not everyone an oligarch, but too many and pretty soon they gobble up half of Eastern Europe. Do I sound like my grandparents here?

OK, got distracted.  More chairs. There were chairs in the ad for Art Basel/Miami white ones, come on, had to be white, Miami, right? In front of paintings I cannot remember.  A prop (TYP)* I guess so maybe you would sit down on one of these chairs (by mistake not thinking it is part of the piece) and look at your wallet and think, “Can I afford this painting and is anyone else sitting on any of the other chairs and thinking the same thing?  Cuz if not, I’m splitting.”

Are you swaying while you are reading this?  Should be.

Henrik Hakansson Installation at SAIC, Chicago

So, 2015 hasta be “The Year of Trees!”  Come on, we are so screwing up the environment; any of you read the papers?  Any of you have children?  Grandchildren? What are we doin’? Mudslides, drought, a mess everywhere and trees are part of the answer. So, here is the solution, so simple: an artist puts a live-ball tree or two or five or ten or more (remember big!) in front of their painting/sculpture/ installation/video/ conceptual-absent work, and then, the art gallery staff waters the live-ball trees for the duration of the exhibition.  So, at the end of the exhibition, the people who came in to view the exhibition who had the most outrageously expensive handbags (OK, Vuitton-Murakami-Gagosian etc. you know who you are) are asked by the alert gallery staff to sign in to “adopt” one or two or ten of the trees!  Then a videographer of need is hired to document the planting of this or these live-ball tree somewhere.  Hey, this worked for Joseph Beuys! Think about it.

Joseph Beuys Planting Oak Trees

Let me tell you, when my mother, oh she is of the earth and she got live-ball trees for Christmas whenever she could.  She has one now, maybe twenty feet tall now in her yard, yes.  Dug it in the ground in January, ground froze, about broke something, her spade, her man’s patience who knows.  But the tree stands, a testament to a woman’s will and love of the environment.

I am telling you this story because the telling is kind of a conceptual art piece really.

If you have no idea what a live-ball tree is I feel so sorry for you and you should have been raised by my mother then you would know.  A live-ball tree is alive.  Its roots are wrapped in burlap to keep them intact.  In-tact.  Then someone who loves your mother, or you and your younger brother help drag this heavy mother of a Christmas tree into the house.  If the neighbor has a dolly that is great but usually the neighbor is gone all day working and the dolly locked up in their garage so you and your younger brother and your mother drag this live-ball baby into the house. Those front steps, they kill. That is the hard part.

Conceptually, the piece already began you just don’t know it yet and it gets more interesting every day.  Of course you all decorate the Christmas tree with the ratty ornaments you made in grammar school, some were from uncooked dried-up cookie dough, UG, some just construction paper.  And ones on sale after Christmas and what grandma left you.  But all nice in the end.

Your mother or me, the older brother, take turns watering this live-ball Christmas tree when we are supposed to.  Every three days maybe.  So somehow the roots on one side suck up more water than the other side and the Christmas tree (the last one I remember was thirteen feet tall and we got it on sale because no one else had a ceiling high enough to accommodate it, thanks mom for being a bargain shopper.) So when one side sucked up more water, the thirteen-foot tree would swing to the other side, listing, like a drunk, no actually, more like a ship listing in the wind. No actually, more like a drunk.

My brother and me loved to run downstairs in the morning to see how many ornaments fell off of the tree during its secret nights of listing east, west, north and south.  Hardly any ornaments broke since we had carpeting.  You just have to get your own live-ball tree one Christmas just to enjoy the surprise of the tree listing any which way. Every day different.

So I anticipate, after reading this article, artists will say, “Man, it is about time I left this synthetic post-PoMo shit behind, get real and put some live-ball trees in front of my paintings/sculptures/installations/videos/ conceptual-absent works and leave something to posterity!”  And thinking of those collectors with those Murakami* * handbags who adopted some of the trees the artists put in the artwork. Can you just see them helping to dig a hole at some playground for kids, the handbaggers feeling helpful and the kids jazzed on the sight of all this being videotaped? Well, we just will make this world a better place.

*TYP:  This Year’s Prop

**  I am sorry for ripping Takashi; he is such a nice man. His Vuitton handbags are just a SYMBOL of the excess of wealth and the culture/wealth nexus.  Murakami’s paintings are magical and fun and Takashi employs a lot of former art students to make his paintings look supernatural. More than superflat.

1         The Running of the Billionaires, Vanity Fair, November 2012 and

2          Frieze Until Numbers Set In, Vanity Fair, January 2014.

Ruben Morrissey has embarked on the first stage of his creative and critical path. He hails from Chicago.




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