The Beautiful and the Dead
When my girlfriend Minerva invited me to meet her at Ace Gallery for last Wednesday nights opening extravaganza, I had little interest in the unveiling of Melanie Pullens High Fashion Crime Scenes exhibit. But I wanted to see Minerva and was mildly curious about what promised to be a dazzling spectacle of crowd and footwear, so I persuaded my photographer/art-snob friend Floyd to come with me.
Floyd brought along a bad attitude and a preconceived distaste for the exhibit, but he was driving, so who was I to complain?
He sulked as we trekked across Wilshire to the über-gallery.
Dead girls in high fashion? Thats art? That gets you a show at Ace Gallery these days?
Inside was a decadent to-do featuring a well-accessorized Whos Who/Who the Hell Are You? of the L.A. Art Scene. The pictures were nice enough pretty girls playing dress-up and dead at the same time. There were a hundred-plus images to take in, so even the most jaded of cynics was apt to find something palatable.
Still, Floyd wasnt embracing it.
I can show you notebooks I kept five years ago that said: Snuff. Fashion. Its completely unoriginal.
Well, the hundredth-monkey theory says
Yeah, yeah. Collective unconscious. Rupert Sheldrake. Whatever.
We circulate, air-kiss, make small talk all arty and sophisticated-like. I tell three different humans that Im an L.A. native. They all assume I am from New York.
Floyd, a New Yorker, ponders this.
Maybe its because you wear glasses.
Something shiny catches one of my four eyes, and I latch on to a plump womans neck.
I love your necklace! I tell her.
Is it because I dont dress like a slut?
Floyd, depressed by the sameness of it all, lapses into a familiar diatribe on the banal dullness of the upper-crust L.A. art scene the same people, the same outfit, the same conversation. According to Floyd, its B+ art being eyed by a B+ crowd in a B+ space in a B+ town.
Minutes later, were cornered by a Swiss photographer who always hits on me (but never remembers doing it). He drones on about his Getty grant and his brilliance. Im daydreaming of crop circles and arsenic-laced berm fillers when he veers off his Im so great soapbox and backslides into a familiar song and dance.
Its like a bad W layout, says the Swiss shutterbug.
Floyd, previously zoning out on passing cleavage, tries to strike up the B+ bandwagon.
Or a good one, he says. But an editorial layout, just the same. Hardly what I would call art.
Hardly, Swiss cheese concurs. You know, I had this idea myself . . . years ago.
And so it goes, the same conversation, the same envy, the same sour grapes only fermented and chilled, poured into stemware and served on a silver platter, but sour and thin-skinned, nonetheless.
So you both had the idea, I break in. I bet 50 people in this room had the idea. But she did it. She did it and she did it big and now she has a show at Ace Gallery. And thats the difference.
As Floyd and I escape the growing monstrosity of a crowd and stumble onto the well-manicured streets of Beverly Hills, I pose the following question:
Which is more disturbing? A bunch of mediocre photographs exhibited at a fancy gallery or a handful of images so amazing and so mind-blowing that in comparison youre a talentless boob?
Floyd shudders at the thought. Theres no good answer.
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