Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Everything Disappears

In the mid 1980s I executed two monumental commissions in California. One in San Francisco's Mission District and one at the well-known and highly visible corner of Hollywood and Vine, in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles work has recently vanished. And neither the art consultant who originally orchestarted the commission nor her art-lawyer can discover its whereabouts. Or why it diappeared. New(ish) state laws which  protect the integrity of public works or ensure an artist's rights are not applicable to the work in question, due, paradoxically, to its vintage status.

I'm consoled in my loss by thoughts of all the many children who, over three decades, may have seen the work (out of car-passenger windows) from the adjacent freeway and surface roads.

Everything disappears. As, eventually, does every consequence of its going.  

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Friday, November 3, 2017

“Perhaps the mistake is to think of me, in actual fact. 

I mean by that, that I’ve never been able to talk about my life, actually. 

As soon as I start talking about my life I start lying straightaway. To begin with I lie consciously. And very quickly I forget that I’m lying”. 

- Michel Houellebecq, transcribed, by me, from a 2005 BBC interview. Photo of Houellebecq from the period.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

School of Harm - Maenadic Studies

School of Harm … Maenadic Studies *

Regarding artists, Plato saw in them no invention, unless inspired and out of their senses. Inspiration, incidentally bestowed - in the Plato’s own time – by a divine troop of discipline-specific Muses; figurative personifications and exclusive franchisers of creative genius.

Lamentably, for visual artists, while Greek Muses readily enraptured poets, musicians, tragedians, dancers, and comedic actors, they, for whatever reason, spurned visual artists.
Plato stipulated insensibility as essential prerequisite of divine inspiration. I like to fancy the philosopher imagining such obligatory insentience along Apollonian lines. Envisioning, perchance, vital inspirational swoons unspooling in what one might think of as neoclassical style. Spontaneous divination, attending on cerebral abstention – serially eventuating within a colonnaded rotunda, awash with even, Arcadian, light.

A space, symmetrically picketed by genre specific effigies and furnished with tastefully appointed fainting lounges. The sum of its aesthetic and psychological portions designed to encourage accommodative inward-turning and mortal downscaling of oversized sacred energies. Discarnate consummation, germinating and birthing physical creation. Creation, of course, minus somatic exertion or emotional histrionics, of the kind I entertain a happy appetite for.

I speak to the sorts of squalid, orgiastic, convulsions often typified by more barbaric states of possession and creative birth. Ludicrously savage states of captivation, like the Dionysian-flavoured frenzy-and-transport attached to popular notions of middle-period modern artists. As in the caricaturish artist- manqués (and their creative paroxysms) one chances upon in New Yorker cartoons and Mad Magazine parodies.

Is any caricature more perennially hardy - or as ubiquitous - than stereotypical depictions of bohemian picture-painters? We’ve all seen, and been drolly amused by, these laughable, easel-orbiting dervishes, lost in a private, careering pas de deux, with whatever ‘god-mad’ inspiration topped their contemporary-painting dance-card of the cultural-moment.  Most of us are familiar with this apparitional, beret-and-smock-wearing artist. A parodic character, far removed from any sort of steady, Apollonian, inner-thrummings.

Conversely, what we have here, is a spirit-drunk puck, unthinkingly engaged in a no-holds-barred, and potentially self-destructive, tango with real and imagined elemental forces, dressed up as demigods. In ungainly and mortal struggle with an immortal tag-team of Maenadic suitors or, perhaps, adversaries. An artist, wholly lost to the world, to himself, to any possibility of impulse-buffering domesticity … in fact, publicly averse to all governing restraint. An artist - to paraphrase Maslow - who is - merely animal - an animal transcending.

So, what might this essay’s mythopoetic carry-on have to do with the purportedly allegorical paintings on show? These newest works continue on an elliptically sui generis path of preposterousness, provocation and impiety – contending with typically dead-earnest (and, to my mind, dead-end) aesthetic concerns and conceptual ‘issues’, currently obsessing the outward-turning, gray-matter-alphas of the art world.  

My paintings perpetually cycle and recycle monotonic, introspective, matters of matter-of-factly misanthropic studio-life.  Studio environs complete with its exaggerated, and shopworn studio emblems, such as: painting palettes, easels, brushes, smocks, berets, cruel shoes and paint smears. Outfitting my anatomically correct figures – in various states of studio dress and undress. Loosing the paintings’ players at each other, to indulge in socially incorrect intergender tussles.

Think of the pictures as mytho-poetic Punch and Judy shows, featuring relatively tiny artists beset by bigger-than-life, multi-chrome, Bacchae. 

The paintings’ shallow perspectival settings and preposterous lighting-conceits backdrop the depicted figure’s stylized terpsichorean mayhem - think WWF, think contact-improv, think Jules Feiffer’s cartoon ‘dances to spring’, think the anachronistic stylizations of Nijinsky or Martha Graham.  All, of course, contrived and stagey – but convincing, nonetheless, with a curiously plausible internal logic. The painting’s players; either unaware or unashamed of the broad melodramatic artifice they play out.

While the paintings feature, in most cases, spatially believable, planar-floors. And, at times, the sort of low-rent moiré-patterned wood grain walls found in trailer-homes and budget motels, such ur-quotidian detail serves, perversely, as shabby-chic foil to the painting’s even more tawdry optical (atmospherically metaphysical) contrivances. More often than not, consisting of spectral incursions by non-naturalistic light and color – democratically alluding to visionary states, lustrous natural phenomenon, or Las Vegas’ neon-borealis.

What does all of this add up to, you might ask. Well, nothing, that is, to do with any real, or explicit, fixed meaning. The paintings’ agenda is simply retinal and cerebral delight – of an unfixable (open ended narrative) category. While alluding to and borrowing (magpie like) from all sorts of affiliate association. The paintings, in their final testimony, substantiate and attest only to the hoary outlaw-biker credo – sworn to fun, loyal to none.   

* my essay (unpublished) for the exhibition of the same name @ Suite Gallery, Wellington  


Thursday, July 6, 2017

School of Harm - Maenadic Studies

School of Harm - Maenadic Studies opens @ Suite, Wellington, 12 July 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Through NYC Floorboards

I used to live in a loft in Manhattan's wholesale flower market. 28th Street between 6th & 7th.
Upstairs lived a young boy, with his father. That same lad claimed, decades later, to have heard the blues coming up, from my place, through the floorboards. Now he lives in New Orleans and earns his crust as an itenerant bluesman. Touring constantly around the USA. He asked me, not long ago, to paint him an LP album cover. Here 'tis - sans record title and his name ... which will come later at the printers. By the way, he gave up the cigarettes.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Measurable Outputs

The idea that art (of all type) is a sort of antechamber one habituates, or medication one swallows, in order to "improve" one's self and/or one's society, is a bourgeoisie, Victorian-era, artifact. 

The Victorian notion was that the, then-trebling, early-industrial era's 'great unwashed' could be demographically reduced, or socially improved, by supplementing the workers otherwise squalid existences with calibrated doses of culture. 

These ideas have persisted to our day and are now greenhouse-propogated by relational aestheticians and non-profit ( governmental and private) entities who dole out public funds based on 'measurable' audience-outreach and measurable audience-enrichment ... read "improvement". 

I've no argument against, nor practical alternative to these hoary ideas and practices - mine is a subjective observation. Nothing more.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

70 Million Dollar Petit Fours

FYI: Art Historian Amelia Jones is a seasoned pro when it comes to curating her own (faux) radical credentials – and self-promotionally disseminating that self-constructed myth via mainstream media and august podiums at airless academic conferences. 

Jones is particularly deft at opportunistically placing herself (in word, if not deed) at the hypothetical barricades of whatever cultural war(s) she sees being fought – fought by actual, participating, stakeholders. 

Jones is the quintessential academic, careerist-sayer, posing as an activist player. Her two main claims to ‘fame’ are coining the grammatically jaw-breaking trope “Pollockian performative” … and her infamously demonstrated willingness to accept a lucrative Chair at UCSC – where she functioned as upholder of, and appartchik spokesperson for, the party-line at Roski School of Art and Design, University of Southern California – just as the entire 2016 post-graduate cohort of the school quit en masse, in protest over the organizationally inept corporatization of the art school. Including, but not limited to, broken, contractual, promises to its post-grads. 

From the elitist promontory of her academic sinecure Amelia Jones loftily pronounces on “trans-identity” and righteously excoriates ‘privilege’ – all-the-while nibbling Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre’s 70 million dollar petit fours. 

Jones has positioned herself in such a way as to lump anyone who questions her radical legitimacy with those who oppose the cultural “re-questioning” she herself has co-opted from its rightful owners.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Install Shots - Means to an End - Caves, Melbourne

Installation shots from Means to an End @ Caves Inc, Melbourne 
Room 18, Level 6, 37 Swanston Street (Nicholas Building), Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Thursday, Friday 12 - 6pm. Saturday 1 - 5pm.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Means to an End travels to Caves, Melbourne

Means to an End. 2016.
Two full scale SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus)
Courtesy of the artist.

C A V E S is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by New Zealand based artist


R O G E R   B O Y C E

Means to an End

Opening celebration to take place on Friday the 29th of April from 6pm.
29th of April - 21st of May, 2016.

“It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late."     
 -  E.M. Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born

We respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of the Kulin Nation.


Room 18, Level 6, 37 Swanston Street
Melbourne, Victoria  3000

Hours: Thursday, Friday 12-6pm. Saturday, 1-5pm or by appointment call 0413205929 or 0416051672

Friday, April 8, 2016

Merle , Bronco Billy, and Hillbilly Heaven

Here's my farewell Merle Haggard story and my favorite Merle Haggard song.

When I was a young man I once took a job on a broke-down ranch-cum-fugitive-farm (of sorts) a good distance on a dirt road outside Durango Colorado....somewhere, or other, in the national forest vicinity of Alamosa. The place was run, or rather run down, by a half-assed 'rancher' (and I use the term rancher, loosely) more accurately an out-and-out grifter named Bert.

Bert had a number of things going, in various states of the union, none of which were going particularly well, at the time. Bert’s hobby-ranch and cult-of-personality detention camp was staffed by a duke’s mixture of youngish men and women - semi-skilled cowboy-and-cowgirl-wannabe drifters - and real, down on their luck cowhands, pedophile cooks, dipsomaniac bottle-washers, self-diagnosed handy-men and women and what have you – most of whom seemed to be primarily engaged with - to the exclusion of much honest work and all else - a perpetual and mysteriously randy, game of musical bunks.

The stock was habitually hungry, and thus constantly breaking down fence to get at grass - both Bert's and the surrounding neighbors. This, and other ranch management dysfunction led to anger and conflict with the more-competent owners of neighboring spreads and recrimination, incessant grumbling, conniving, rumor mongering and dust-ups among Bert's mostly unqualified, debatably sociopathic, ranch hands. 

A great many conflicts stemmed from Bert's unwillingness, or financial reluctance , to buy-in feed, the ranch's collective incompetence at growing and laying by its own hay and alfalfa stores, but more often than not overflowed from incompletely sublimated tension around, and out of, tectonic shifts in romantic alliance, schism, and rivalry.

I'd hie off, now and again, into wilder places nearby, to get far away from the ranch's daily interpersonal chaos and collapsing infrastructure ... and to try for trout in the Alamosa, the Animas & their tributaries. A time or two, on my desperate river wanderings, I'd find I had been mysteriously tracked down one river trail or another, by a canny, redheaded and determined young horse-girl. I'd get back to my camp at nightfall to find her ride tied nearby and her waiting, in the altogether, inside my tent. She got no argument from me, there on the river, although back at the ranch was another story.

Things finally came to an unhappy head, with Bert and I, late one evening. And after a marathon, and dangerously heated, argument about: whether I was really leaving, or not, whether he'd be paying me what was outstanding, or not, and if he'd willingly drive me to the train station in Gallup,New Mexico - or risk a well earned beat-down I’d been spoiling for.    

Bert surprised me by capitulating and so we drove off the ranch, into the night, and on toward New Mexico, in his late model, canary yellow, Coupe de Ville. It should be noted here that Bert did not scrimp on personal comforts.

Driving, in an adrenally fatigued and grimly silent state, through the remainder of the night, we arrived. And I was unceremoniously dropped, near dawn, on the outskirts of the New Mexico Indian town of Gallup - where I'd be forced by a Southern Pacific timetable to wait most of the day for the next train to California. 

Being already chronically sleep deprived - by continual ranch goings-on: jarred or kept awake, nightly, by noisy parties, serial arguments, the occasional knuckle duster and/or theatrically loud fucking sounds coming from adjacent, thin-walled, bunkhouse - I was all but asleep on my feet in a town I had no familiarity with or newfound affection for.

Gallup is, or was then, a dead, dry and dust-blown southwestern town with nothing much to recommend it - save cheap Mexican restaurants, drinking dives, and cheek-by-jowl pawn shops - pawn shops stuffed full of dead-Indian-pawn. Sad, tawdry cinder-block and stucco treasuries filled with silver and turquoise bolos, bracelets, necklaces, belt-buckles, and earrings of various vintage and craftsmanship – all democratically reduced to abandoned second-hand merchandise, to be pawed through by fat, white, American tourists weighing the dubious pros and cons of quality, price and baseline advisability of buying and taking home an authentic Native American memento of travels through the indigenous southwestern USA.

I imagined, with no little desperation, finding a lush park or municipal lawn on which to collapse and sleep. But that was a waking dream. Gallup's few public parks were treeless, sun-blasted expanses of hard dirt, dust, broken bottle glass and strategically pinched dogshit. Grass, had it once existed, was now a distant memory. I wandered the streets in a sort of nauseous haze, looking for relief.

Relief appeared, as if a mirage, in the form of an old-school movie palace. On a Deco Marquee: "Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy, featuring a cameo appearance by Merle Haggard and the Strangers". I tripped into the almost empty theater’s shady, air-conditioned interior, sat down in a plush seat, and stayed with Bronco Billy until Merle appeared - grinning and fronting his band, behind a cinematically staged barfight. 

I fell asleep immediately thereafter, assured that if Merle could carry on playing in the eye of a honky tonk storm that I might, just might, sleep undisturbed, all the way to California, in a second class train coach and wake up fresh to the sunshine state. Where perhaps, with some luck, I might reclaim a little piece of the life I’d left behind.

The song Merle and the boys were playing in the movie that day was Misery and Gin – my favorite Haggard tune then and to this day. RIP Mr. Haggard. You gave as good as you got. And often better.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ha ha ha huh?

Ha ha ha huh? Art Basel Hong Kong Debate motion: "Art Today Has Sold Out To The Market" ... note to breathless ABHK debaters - Bernard Berenson once lucidly compared the Renaissance relationship twixt artist and patron to that of a luxury goods tradesman (say, shoemaker, tailor to the court) and a customer placing an order. The patron specified what he or she wanted. 

I imagine the Church and 17th century nouveau riche tradesmen of the Netherlands also specified desire. What Modern, and now contemporary, art patrons most specifically desire, is a ticket to ride. A warrant to climb aboard and be associated with an artist's intangible, but increasingly valued, prestige. 

To gain admission to realms of prestigious endeavor and experience they would otherwise be socially/culturally excluded from - given the almost monomaniacal pursuit of mercantile wealth is the real price of admission to Art Basel Hong Kong and other luxury goods trade-fairs.

Blog-post image by Bill Griffith 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Macher & Machen The 2016 Walters Prize Selection

Thread contribution (with some editing for out-of-context-legibility) to Jim and Mary Barr's Over the net and on the Table FB Page:

Without at all questioning the quality and suitability of art and artists, chosen for this year's Walters finalists, I would submit that the largest elephant in the Walters room is the apparent exclusion of painting and painters from consideration. 

While there have been, in the past, exceptions to this perpetually evident omission ... those, for the most part token, painters included in the finalist-and-winners mix would be exceptions to the rule. 

Given that painting is the statistically largest category of visual art practice in any country, and given it thrives, innovates and (yes) dominates multiple artworld sectors - despite its many published obituaries - its exclusion by successive Walters juries is an embarrassingly self-conscious and myopic exercise of ideological discrimination. 

The supposed conflict of ( makher / מאַכער ) interest you (Over the Net) highlight with your investigative speculations is, in my experience, standard operating procedure in the larger artworld... and here, on these professionally inbred islands, an all but unavoidable fact. 

'Insider-trading' is the mother's milk of international, national, and regional artworld-curation and adjudication. And an indispensable promotion-rung on the arts-administration career-ladder. 

I would guess that what I've written here will be seen (if at all) as either partisan, sour/grapes, and/or reactionary waffle. What else is new?

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Years Eve

When I was still drinking I didn't, as a rule, go out on New Years Eve. My friends and I, who were all 'career drinkers', referred  to New Years Eve as amateur night. We didn't ,of course, cease our chronic, chemically-assisted, drinking on New Years Eve - we simply stocked-up and stayed home. 

Shortly after moving to New Zealand, while still married, with a young child (Enzo, probably 2 years old at the time), we undertook a motor-home Tiki tour of the north island. We ended up, on New Years Eve day, at Glink's Gully, an ocean-side campsite near Dargaville. In the daytime it was delightfully sunny, the seemingly endless beach a natural marvel, and our campsite neighbors friendly and reasonably sane.

That evening an entire campsite of average looking, mostly middle-aged, middle-class, white-folk got simply blotto and ran amok. While their children scurried about the night, unsupervised. Amok, there's simply no other way to put it. Add, to the veneer-delaminating George Romero-like scenario, a musically monstrous, ear-bleedingly-loud, Jimmy Barnes-on-bad-acid-style band ... churning out one banal cover-song after another - some time before midnight - (with our two year old wailing in pure terror, at the sonic assault) factor in the sound of a military-sized copter landing very close by where we trying to, hopelessly, get the kid to sleep. 

Apocalypse Then. 

Mid morning of the next day (or early-afternoon, rather) those who'd managed to come-to were slumped on chairs and chilly bins .... staring dumbly at the destroyed turf between their jandals. Slowly the night's full story (and the reason for the copter landing) emerged in pained, embarrassing, croaks from our crushingly hungover camp-mates.

It seems one young girl had been all but cut in half, another seriously broken, by a drunken, speeding, dirt biker - ripping heedlessly down the beach in pitch-darkness. Two mid-teen girlfriends, lying on their backs, gazing up at the wealth of stars in a moonless sky - both of them leaving, one near death, in the medi-vac copter we'd heard landing and taking off. 

I found myself comforting the dead girl's inconsolable grandfather (known as 'the Mayor of Glink's Gully) as his own family&friends cohort were yet too traumatized or wolly-headed to provide an ear. He'd had a beer or two, the night before, took off his hearing aids and gone to bed - waking in the morning to the night's tragedy. 

All of the campgrounds we stayed at during our travels that summer were to a lesser degree (of course) similarly Janus-faced. In the daytime folks fished, swam, played volleyball and ate together in some semblance of normality - but at night, any night, most bets were off. Nothing arose to challenge the level of middle-class-white horror we had on New Years night ... but various degrees of ungoverned, ethanol-induced chaos ruled kiwi campgrounds, come sundown, on any given night. 

This is not a reproach, or cautionary tale - it's nothing more than a first person account.

Although I wasn't drinking then, and abstain to this day, I continue my habit of staying home on New years Eve. 

Humanity is barely sufferable when both they, and I, aren't in the bag. So, as I write, it's roughly 11:13PM and here I sit, waiting for the signaling fireworks outside to resound.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ceci N'est Pas Une Cigare

A spirtitualist-table-rapper's means of communication with the 'other side' or a Richard Artschwager table - sometimes, sometimes, a cigar is not just a cigar.

"A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing , abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties .... It is absolutely clear that, by his activity, man changes the forms of the materials of nature in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of the wood, for instance, is altered if a table is made out of it. Nevertheless the table continues to be wood, an ordinary, sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will."  - Karl Marx

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Balanchine's Bathtub

When I lived in NYC I found myself, one evening, at an art after-party, near Lincoln Center, in what had once been George Balanchine's  apartment. 

When I happened to require the loo I discovered a pair of New York City Ballet dancers lying fully clothed in the bathroom's water-less bathtub. 

When I laughingly inquired of the odd, but delightful, sight I was told by the two supine dancers that the tub had been Balanchine's.

 That was the first I'd heard of the apartment's provenance. 

Draw your own conclusions as to why the dancers were in the tub. I ended up dating - for a short while - one of the ballerinas.

Studies for Girl With Prostheses

Come and say hello if you are in Wellington the night of October 21

Friday, August 14, 2015

Daydream & Drama

- Robert J Stoller

Friday, June 19, 2015

"God Is In the House"

In the Studio today:

Art Tatum - here he's playing Sweet Emalina, My Gal (sounds like the A take version).

Tatum is, inarguably, the greatest jazz pianist of all time...and one of the greatest pianist, in any genre, of all time. 

when asked who the greatest pianist in the world was, Vladimir Horowitz replied, without hesitation, ‘Art Tatum’.  Also Horowitz said ,in an interview, that ‘If Art Tatum took up classical music seriously, I’d quit my job the next day’.

Pianist Fats Waller once announced Tatum by saying "God is in the house".

It takes some listening for the ear to get accustomed  to Tatum's perfection ... to aurally accommodate  his uncanny precision and speed.  Tatum's playing has, at times, been erroneously described as 'mechanical' - akin to a player-piano roll. Tatum plays with such speed and aplomb that his two handed pieces have sometimes been mistaken for four-handed performances.

The longer one listens to Tatum the more the heroic poetry and rich veins of sweetness begin to pronounce themselves. But long studio sessions listening to nothing but this genius can, admittedly, be wearing. Bill Evan's - with his occasional flaws and heart-on-sleeve humanity is easier to live with over long periods in the studio. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015