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Iles & Rizzoli & Isles or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love TV

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I am a lazy person. Iget lazier. But I decided, a while back, that I would bravely go where manyhave gone before (Dallas) to see what many have seen (The LucTuymans’ exhibition at the DMA). 

This is a big deal. Thanks to the internet, Irarely leave the house. I read in a recent Scientific Americanthat appearing at public functions and acting as if you’re genuinely pleasedto be looking at people is thought to promote the growth of cancer cells. Theauthor went on to speculate that the popular double-cheek-kiss greeting mightsomeday require immediate chemotherapy.

Okay, that’s bullshit.

But what with everything we touch containing BPA’s, it could beremotely possible.

Whatever. Absurd fantasies like these, shared withvirtual friends while online shopping deter me from leaving the compound.

However, for the Tuymans exhibition, I steelilyresolved to make the trek. If I’d hopped in the truck the moment I made mydecision, things might have been okay. But I wound up with two weeks to thinkabout the significance of this venture, and God knows that, for a person likemyself, any time allowed for speculation is simply a petri dish for breedingobsessive, fantastic, and paranoiac ideas.

The chain of escalating neuroses started thusly:

I was violently resenting the fact that seeing abunch of paintings in person would require at least 10 hours of driving in atruck smelling of wet dog. That I’d have to board aforementioned dog. That I’dhave to stay in a gross Super8 off the freeway and breathe eternally recycled conditioned air andlie quivering under my poly-spread in fear of unhinged lunatics (thank you, Charles Albright, TexasEyeball serial killer).

unlike Bundy, this guy didn't even have the courtesy to look good

This made me question if I really wanted to go, and the answer, despite fear of death and escalatinggas prices, was still a resounding ‘yes’.

But why?

Because I’ve actually seen this artist’s paintingsin person, and like the paintings of Giorgio Morandi, Iknow that only seeing them up close and personal will make the viewingexperience here satisfying. And that, at least for me, is in this case worthit.

Morandi: Mysteriously Making Paint Matter

But what if I hadn’tever seen a Luc Tuymans painting in the proverbial flesh? What if I’d onlyseen images in magazines or on the internet? Worse, what if I’d only been toldby a reviewer that I should see the work?

Would I go to all this trouble?

Of course not.

But with art, particularly the one-of-a-kind stuff,I’ve gotten to the point where I either know from firsthand experience that Ineed to see it, or I take a recommendation from a friend.

We all know how that goes, though. Even closefriends have wildly divergent tastes, let alone agendas, and they can’t alwaysbe trusted.

Knowing that even my closest real-not-Facebook palsdon’t have my best viewing interests at heart, I wearily eyed my ever-growingtower of untouched phone books—oops, I mean door stops, oops, I mean Ad-Forums—oops,I mean Artforums.

Let's ask Anna Whose is Bigger.


 There they were, each as thick as the Septemberissue of Vogue (Hot dog!This year will be the fattest yet!) and comparably choked with glossyadvertisements. The Art-World Bible. The Authority. Every page filled with afull-page advertisement, a Top 10-touting hipster, or a lauded scholar tellingme there’s a world of really cool stuff out there in New York and London andBerlin, and I’ll never get to see it. So there.

And I’d just have to take their word that it’s the shit. There’s a rich, glossy full-pagead for JulianSchnabel’s latest paintings—that must mean they’re really good!

For this single reason—that I’ll never be cool—I havefound solace, comfort, and even authority in reproducible visual media, namelymovies and TV. With these, I can read a review, experience the subject withlittle to no effort or expense, and walk away proudly, saying, “Why, to hellwith you, DavidDenby! I thought the attention to moral and ethical philosophicalsubject matter embodied by MattDamon in the penultimate scene was deep and insightful!”


There's absolutely no reason why I've included pictures of Matt Damon. Except for the fact that I really like Matt Damon.

I’ve participated. I’ve got power. And with theexception of that annoying bitch in front of me with the cell phone, I’veexperienced the work just as the artist intended.

Of course, I’m not likening fine art to a Lawand Order rerun or Inception. I’mjust talking about how possible, in its own meager way, it is to reallyexperience something in these formats. To really know something.

And I want to know something.

By the way, I used to lump internet art inwith my category of human-friendly media until I remembered that most internetprojects are often subterranean in nature, and that video, for the most part,is, like any painting, on view for a short time in a specific place and is notgenerally available to the public.

I also, and with great ire, eliminated video fromthis category thanks to another Artforum incident.Each year, Artforum surveys the “best”of the previous year, according to its handpicked experts. By December of lastyear, this issue was the only one I bothered to read, and for only one reason:it reviewed the year in film.

As usual, the filthy, populist prince John Waters warmed the cockles of myheart. After reading his picks, I scuttled off to my computer, and with theexception of one or two obscure selections, I was able to find all of them on Netflix.


It felt good.

Then I saw ChrissieIles as one of the selected film-pickers. I was excited. I’ve seen afew of her curatorial efforts and found them thought-provoking. I hungrilyscanned her contribution.

I was stunned.

Nearly all of her recommendations were art world videosor short films that had been shown in gallery exhibitions and were no longerrunning.

After a long period of being flabbergasted, I was simplypissed. Why, I thought, was this bitch fucking with my head? Why had she takenthe only thing I had and put it out of my reach?

Not knowing if Iles was still a curator at the Whitney, I seriously thought about emulatingKramer stunt in a Seinfeld episodeand hurling a stack of Artforums intothe museum lobby.

Tired of those jackbooted thugs.

And yes, I realize that I should probably seek helpfor my deeply disturbing issues with Artforum.Pun intended…

 It took me a while—tens of thousands of Seinfeld, Law and Order, and Simpsons and ArrestedDevelopment reruns (not to mention The Godfather,Part II, SerialMom, NoCountry For Old Men, Caddyshack,Out of the Past, The Big Lebowski, Waiting for Guffman,and Zoolander) oninfinite loop to get back to my safe place. The place where I know what and whyI like stuff all on my very own and I am not infantilized by some eggheadtelling me all about the good stuff that I’ll never experience.

Dimmi, Sandro!

The bulk of art criticism: like describing key limepie to a starving Ethiopian.

Like I said, though, I’m back. I’ve shut it allout, and I’m feeling strong again. And it’s because of movies and all of thatbrain-draining TV. My favorite thing to do while watching TV, by the way, is touse the Bechdel Test (1.It has to have at least 2 women in it, 2. Who talk to each other, 3. About somethingbesides a man).

Popular with the gender studies crowd, not so much with the DEA.

I don’t have premium cable, so some of the showsthat pass the test with flying colors (Showtime’s Weeds or Nurse Jackie)are unavailable to me. I do have basic cable, though, and since my generalobsession is with formulaic crime/action drama, I look at the spate ofseemingly female friendly fodder offered on, for the most part, the USA network and TNT.

The only one that really, technically passes thetest is the recently released Rizzoli and Isles.A tough driving detective (AngieHarmon) and a frosty medical examiner with a penchant for expensivefootwear (Sasha Alexander). Itdoes have everything it should. The relationship between the two women isfairly well written, and the male characters, while not central, are notemasculated or belittled. Unfortunately, the fabulous Lorraine Bracco isreduced to a role of ditzy mother hen-dom, but on the whole, the human element,at least for something like this, is fairly well balanced and pretty feministfriendly.

Of course, the plots are always stupid as hell, andfor those of us who thrive on make-believe gore, it’s a disappointment, butthat’s beside the point. What’s really irritating about the show is that,despite the strong “feminist” characterizations, is that I’m still watching a couple ofsmokin’ hotties, and even though they’re smart and successful, Jane Rizzoli andMaura Isles are still only as good as the vision a hopeful male viewer willconjure of the two of them getting into a pillow fight, kissing, and winding upin the shower together.



Would any man have ever fantasized such a thing whileviewing the groundbreaking (for its time) Cagney and Lacy? I shudder tothink.



I also shudder to think that this is how farfeminist ideals have come in the past 35 years.

But I digress.

But look athow I digress! I’ve contemplated the futility of first generation feminism, allby myself, and all in front of my TV with a blown out picture tube.

I’m too out of the loop to argue with ChrissieIles, but not with Rizzoli and Isles.

I’ll take my empowerment and authority where I canget it.

Oh, by the way, like I said? I’m headed for theDallas/Fort Worth area soon, and I’ll be reviewing one of the shows there (notthe Luc Tuymans).

If you don’t have a chance to see the show I reviewbecause you don’t live in the area and can’t travel there, I fully expect youreaders, all three of you, to take every single word I write as Gospel.

And Mom, that includes you.  



also by Laura Lark
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