Monday, September 2, 2013

Peter Jay Shippy: ANGLE ON


The birds. We see the statue in the middle of the park, but we have no idea where we are until we see the Mays Dept. Store sign.  The birds circle in flocks, never lighting on the trees.


Jean presses a buzzer. He's admitted. He carries his bike on his shoulder.  

Jean enters a broad, high-ceilinged studio. It's neat. Paintings lie on the floor.

Andy's back is turned to him. As Jean gets closer, he sees that Andy's assistant
FRANK is peeing on canvas covered with copper pigment. We hear the SOUND of the piss.  Frank holds a bottle of beer in his hand.

A little more to the right, Frank. OK...  Good. Now up... You got a little more?  Jean notices a bunch of Andy's wigs on a desk.

What's with the wigs?

I'm going to send them to my friends for Christmas presents.

You think those are good presents? Who wants an old wig?

Jean makes a grimace. He walks up to the painting Frank's peeing on.

Piss painting?

I wanted to make a few more of these.  Frank's been drinking this Mexican beer. It makes a good green.

How come you're not peeing on them yourself?

I don't like beer.

Looking down at the painting – 

If you ever want me to shit on 'em, just ask. You could finger paint.
—from Julian Schnabel’s original script, Basquiat (1997)

* * *

Basquiat’s last line didn’t make the final cut in the film about Basquiat.

In the film, Warhol responds to Basquiat’s “Piss Painting” line with, “Not piss painting, Jean. Oxidation art.”

My daughters’ favorite piece in Boston’s MFA is Warhol’s Oxidation Painting (1978):


Urine on metallic pigment in acrylic pigment on canvas.

My daughters know how it was created. Is that why it’s their favorite? They’re 5, passionate and honest even when they’re not quite truthful.

Jean makes a grimace. He walks up to the painting Frank's peeing on. 
Flag a tag as offensive. (Museum of Fine Arts website)
That famous tag began as a high school stoner’s joke, a collaboration between Basquiat and Al Diaz, same oh, same old, same old shit. Shit=dope.
Basquiat churned / out butter, signing each / SAMO©. Sameold. Sambo’s / soup. (Kevin Young, “Campbell’s Black Bean Soup” from To Repel Ghosts)
Frank's been drinking this Mexican beer.  It makes a good green.
The birds circle in flocks, never lighting on the trees.   
In the MFA, very near the Warhol, is my daughters’ 2nd favorite piece, “Vache (Cow),” a wire sculpture by Alexander Calder.


Note the coiled cow pie in the lower left. Ssssssss.

My daughters immediately caught the link between Calder and Warhol—ah, two titans of 20th century American art! Nah, pee and poop, they sang. The guard began to laugh, too. We wondered if a curator with a delightfully scatological sense of humor arranged the neighborhood

In the next room was a Pollock. In the hallway was a men’s bathroom with a replica of R. Mutt’s scandalous 1917 sculpture, “Fountain.”

Action painting, action pissing, Sacrebleu. Sacred blue. Moo.
interestingly, a famous episode in Pollock's life saw him urinate in Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace at one of her parties, frustrated by the cropping of his mural to fit her wall. Perhaps Warhol was referring specifically to this irreverent moment by Pollock in these works. (Bruce Hainley, "Urine Sample")
Bark your territory. Spread that seed.

In 1961 Piero Manzoni created 90 sculptures, tin cans, filled—supposedly—with the artist’s feces.


You could finger paint.

…scraping / the uncanny, making / a tin thing sing. (Young, “Campbell’s Black Bean Soup”)

In 1962, Campbell’s and Warhol offered 32 varieties of soup.

Manzoni’s father, who owned a canning factory, apparently told his son that his art was shit.

Bark your territory. Spread that seed.

Merda d’artista was sold by weight at that day’s gold market price.

In 2008 a can sold for £97,250.

It makes a good green.

* * *
It's disgusting, degenerate Catholic bashing at its worst, and the hard working taxpayers of our city have no obligation to fund religious blasphemy like this. (Mayor Giuliani, on The Blessed Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili)

He painted a black Madonna with a masklike face…. He painted a delicate lavender robe across her possibly pregnant stomach, and he exposed her breasts….  He then used elephant dung to mark her bare breast and to complete the design, as if rain were falling… Where is the offense? It is in the dung. For us the word is shit, for us the excrement is unholy, defiling, disgusting. But that seems unlikely to be this artist’s meaning. He does not seem to be desecrating the Madonna—at least, this is not desecration if one views the dung as part of nature, as a sign of life moving across the floor of the world. If the dung of the great and powerful elephant is simply read as a sign of animal life, of biology in nature, as part of the color of earth-not as our Western eyes see it, but as man might once have: the smell of a human body on the heath, bowels and digestion, heart and blood, all part of the process of life itself-then perhaps this dung is not slung against the Catholic Church and its worship of the Holy Virgin, but is
used as a way to bring the African connection to animals, to nature, into the
circle of the holy and the sacrosanct. (Anne Roiphe, The New York Observer)

* * *

Late in the film about Basquiat, Basquiat visits the palatial home of Albert Milo.
The palatial home was played by the real home of Julian Schnabel. Gary Oldman played Milo, an artist. Stella Schnabel played Milo’s daughter Stella. Jeffrey Wright played Basquiat. Basquiat’s art was played by Schnabel’s exact copies of Basquiat’s art. David Bowie played Warhol.
When I first saw Bowie on the set, it was like Andy had been resurrected. (Bob Colacello)
After the film was released, Wright repudiated his role: “I think my performance was appropriated, literally, and the way I was edited was appropriated in the same way his [Basquiat's] story has been appropriated and that he was appropriated when he was alive. [...] Julian made him out to be too docile and too much of a victim and too passive and not as dangerous as he really was. It's about containing Basquiat. It's about aggrandizing himself through Basquiat's memory” (Phoebe Hoban’s Basquiat: A Quick Killing in the Art World).

* * *
My paintings take up room, they make a stand. People will always react to that. Some people get inspired, others get offended. But, that’s good. I like that. (Julian Schnabel)

SAMO© as an alternative 2 playing art with the 'radical chic' sect on Daddy's $ funds. (Jean-Michel Basquiat)
* * *

Stella asks her father to fix the TV.


I've seen you before. I like your paintings a lot. Your hair was different. 

You like your dad's paintings?

Some of them.

Stand still.

He draws her.

See you later.


He walks to the door, leaving the drawing on the floor.  Albert returns.

Where's Jean?

He just left.

Albert opens the door to the stairwell looking for Jean. 

He hears the sound of URINATING. 

He leans over the stairwell.

He sees Jean Michel, taking a piss on the landing.

He shuts the door quietly.

* * *

He shuts the door quietly.

Jean enters a broad, high-ceilinged studio. It's neat. Paintings lie on the floor.  


Peter Jay Shippy’s 4th book is A spell of songs (Saturnalia, 10/13). His work will appear in The Best American Poetry 2013. He teaches at Emerson College.

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