A friend of mine is in town this weekend because his father had a major-minor art opening in Manhattan on Thursday evening. It's always an event when his father has an opening because his paintings, which are sort of a combination of Van Eyck's formal composition and David Lynch's subconscious, are painstakingly realized and therefore take months, sometimes years to complete. And this opening was pretty unusual. Not only was it tightly focused - consisting of just a single painting - it also shared an opening with a large exhibition of Paul Cadmus' pencil and pastel portraits. Now, if you're not familiar with the work of Paul Cadmus it means you're either A) not a huge student of American painting or B) not a tremendous homosexual. Cadmus was incapable of NOT painting or drawing gayed up. Why is this important? Because the crowd gathered for his show - a show Mr. Cadmus could not enjoy personally because of the many inconveniences of being deceased - was intensely, eye-stabbingly gay. And not just sleeveless Chelsea-style gay. This was a swarm of Upper East Side, Old Moneyed, Over Fifty, Suspenders and Seersucker, Caring for Their Ailing Mothers, Bank President Gay. I have never seen a group assembled quite like this before. I counted four ascots before I grew weary.
In addition, Cadmus' most recent long-term lover and most frequent model, Jon, was in attendance. He was signing books alongside the author of a recent book on Paul Cadmus, and the two figures side-by-side couldn't have been more different. The author was strictly W.A.S.P. - pressed edges, Just For Men haircut, perfectly tucked in - while Jon, who is now in his 70s, was wearing his hair long, slicked back and dyed blonde and, rather than the shirt/tie/jacket combo established by the book's author, opted for a shiny black lycra unitard boatneck top. In a word, it was Superstarriffic.
On another quick art note, this afternoon I went to the Richard Avedon portrait show at NYC's Museum of Metropolitan Art. I love his portraits, though the absence of context for his subjects often deprives them of an emotional life. (unlike someone like nan goldin or larry clark.) There were a few portraits that still managed to really sit with me, including a diptych of Samuel Beckett. But one photograph, in particular, got stuck inside me. Avedon did a series of portraits of his own father, Jacob Israel Avedon, in the years leading up to his death. Without question the relationship between father and son and the obvious chronology of the photographs attributed to some of the series' impact. The next-to-last picture stopped me dead. It shows Avedon's father with an expression I can only describe as a perfectly natural mixture of Shock, Sadness, Amazement, and Disappointment. Isolated, this expression had nothing to compete with. It was a profound statement, something like, "Holy fuck, this is what happens?" It was like watching a man finally understand his own mortality completely - how painful and incredible and somewhat absurd it is all at once - and all he's left with is this twisted, speechless expression. I spent a lot of time with this photograph and, before I waved goodbye, I couldn't resist saying to myself and to Richard Avedon's dad and anyone else within earshot, "No shit, Jacob." I really feel like that crazy expression must be on my face everywhere I go, no matter what I do.