Friday, December 26, 2008


I cannot wait to write this blog. I have been given a gift! How many times has it happened that one is given the thread to tie all the loose ends of one's life together and see how it all fits? That, in a nutshell is what I have been given. Last night a fabulous 90 minute show aired on Sundance Channel. It was titled "Who Gets To Say It's Art". It was a show primarily about Henry Geltzahler, the curator for The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, who in 1969 mounted a show at the Met called "New York Painting 1940-1970". As it told about Henry Geltzahler's career as a curator and art critic/historian, it told the story of how American artists of the post war era struggled to find an identity through abstract expressionism by way of Jackson Pollack and William DeKooning, into the new order of pop art of Jasper Johns, Roy Liechtenstein, Larry Rivers, and Andy Warhol. What a story! It connected the post war art underground to the beatniks of mid-century intellectualism, and on to the 60's pop art culture from which sprang Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, hippies, and the end of art in the punk rock world of anarchy. What it has to do with me, is that I was an art student at precisely this time, from 1960-1964, the stretch point of an incredible phase in the history of the current culture. While I could draw fairly well, I couldn't fathom how one could make a living from hanging paintings in a gallery for sale when no one gave a rats ass about art or what value anything had in a suburban society that cared only about gadgets, cars, and electrical appliances. In short, a culture devoid of culture. It was a discouraging predicament. As I withdrew from the conveyor belt of university life to pursue a life of vagabond hedonism, I embraced drinking and drug use partly because it was an accepted behavior among the artist community. All at once, habits of dubious merit became the dominant feature in my life. Of course, I will admit that there are other substantial reasons that might explain the whys of my substance abuse, but let's leave that one for another blog. For now, this one fits the story. With the outward appearance of an artist, but lacking the working end of it, I bounced through a series of events that landed me at the doorstep of rock and roll. I joined a rock and roll band as an extension of art, a different format of an emerging cultural expression that propelled the individual into the center of the painting as the artist and the subject of the painting. I might call it an existential slight of hand; posing both the painter and the painting simultaneously. Ah, but I feel like a poseur even saying it. Even so, that is how I saw it. The band that I had the good fortune of joining was the MC5, as you might know. While we figured into the political upheaval of the late 60's, it was not the launching point of the band. As young ruffians and provocateurs of the day, we were interested in enlightening our audiences to the possibilities beyond the mundane suburban drift that everyone was annoyed with. It all fit so well at the time, and unlike art it was accessed by millions. But that is a longer story and gets too complicated for todays purposes.

What I wish to say here is that having made the connection with how art seeped its way into pop culture, and consequently into the way the decades have played out in terms of my life, I have gained the tools to pull it back together at the point where it makes sense to me personally. I now know what I want to do. I see the work of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky as the bridges between the older European forms that moved painting from the breakthroughs of Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso into the new order of spiritual introspection that leads to the door of those New York painters.

This is but one thread in a great story of art. Many threads exist in a fabric that runs through our time, through all time. It's funny, the older I get, the more curious I am about how everything is woven together in our history, the history of all mankind. Being a part of it is such a happy thing. We are blessed to have this world as our canvas. We can create whatever we like to decorate it and express our joy at being here. If this is a new years resolution of sorts, then I will say that I resolve to create as much art as I can in the coming year. I will try to find my connection to this world through art, it's what I was meant to do.

One more thing: While I'm thinking of it, I wish to thank Steven Streight, one of followers of this blog, who has so generously and thoughtfully put the Music Is Revolution badge up on his blog. You can link to Steven's blog instantly by clicking on his icon at the top of this page. Thank you Steven, and thank you for your comments and views. We have a great deal in common, I can see that. I wish you all the very best in all your efforts. Right on, my brother, and Happy New Year!


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

Great post and great blog! Kandinsky is good but have you seen Tamara De Lempicka's paintings?

Also, when are MC5/DKT going on the road again? I was all set to see you all in July but it was postponed.

Have a fabulous 2009.

Andy, UK.

Michael Davis's Music Is Revolution said...

Thanks for the comment! I will check out Tamara's work, I haven't seen it.
As for DKT, that is permanently shelved, but I will be in London FEB. 13 at Dirty Water w/OJM, and FEB.14 at Cooler Club in Bristol, UK. also w/OJM.
OJM are a band from Italy I produced a couple of years ago. They are a good hard-rocking outfit, and have a compelling sound that is fascinating. If you are near these venues you might come see me there. Michael

Anonymous said...

Stooges' guitarist Ron Asheton found dead in his Ann Arbor home